Federal budget cuts are coming for every school district this fall—but the reality of teacher layoffs and program cuts already are here for school districts that receive Impact Aid.
Two district officials who already have endured the first round of scheduled cuts shared their experiences in a teleconference organized by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS).
NSBA is continuing to lobby Congress through its grassroots network to stop or mitigate sequestration, the automatic, across-the-board cuts that took place when Congress failed to pass a budget in March.
“We urge Congress to develop a plan that not only protects education as a civil right but also as a national security interest,” said NSBA President David A. Pickler, who added that while “federal dollars are going away, the mandates remain.”
Pickler, a member of the Shelby County school board in Memphis, said his district plans to lay off instructional coaches, who work with struggling learners and help prepare students for tests, and behavioral interventionists, who help students with significant behavioral issues.
Impact Aid, the fund that reimburses school districts that lose tax revenue because of federally controlled land, was the only major K-12 program that saw immediate budget cuts; other K-12 programs will be pared down about 5 percent beginning Oct. 1 and will see scheduled decreases over the next 10 years. Some Impact Aid districts have had to cut academic programs, teachers, and paraprofessionals in the middle of the school year.
Karen Gray, the president of the Silver Valley Unified School District’s board, said the district’s preschool that serves many special-needs children had seen the brunt of this year’s cuts. The Yermo, Calif., school district includes a military base, and educating students whose parents are deployed creates additional challenges, Gray noted.
“Our board and staff continuously adjust our finances,” she said. The district has avoided teacher layoffs so far by eliminating jobs through attrition.
Roy Nelson, a school board member in the Red Lake Independent School District in Red Lake, Minn., said his district had eliminated seven teacher jobs and three paraprofessional jobs and scaled back elementary music and tutoring programs.
Parents, though, are concerned about school safety given last year’s shootings in Connecticut and a shooting in 2005 that killed seven students at a Red Lake high school, Nelson said. But the district cannot afford to hire more security guards.
More than 700 school boards have passed resolutions asking Congress to pass a budget that fully funds K-12 education programs. Go to NSBA’s Stop Sequestration webpage for more information and sample resolutions.