Sequestration is scheduled to take effect in three weeks, and the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging President Barack Obama and members of Congress to do everything in their power to protect K-12 education programs from the automatic budget cuts.
NSBA held a press call on Dec. 12 with school board members in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio to detail the impact of the so-called fiscal cliff on their schools. Those across-the-board cuts to federal spending, including education funds, are scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 2, 2013 unless Congress and the White House can negotiate a new budget plan.
“This is a political failure that could lead to an educational catastrophe,” said NSBA President-elect David A. Pickler, a member of the Shelby County (Tenn.) Board of Education. “It would have the most profound impact on our most fragile and at-risk students,” given that the two largest federal K-12 programs—Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act—benefit disadvantaged students and students with disabilities, he added.
Using budget figures from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, NSBA’s legislative advocacy department estimates public education would see cuts of about $4 billion in the next academic year; locally, that adds up to about $82,000 from every $1 million in federal funds that a school district receives. NSBA’s Director of Federal Legislation Deborah Rigsby noted that the cuts would continue for the next 10 budget cycles, and schools may also see ensuing cuts from state and local budgets.
School board members said that those cuts would lead to larger class sizes, cuts to research-based academic supplemental programs, after-school activities and summer school, and many extracurricular programs. And more teacher and staff layoffs will further hinder economic growth.
“We have tolerated cut after cut after cut,” said John Pennycuff, a school board member in Winton Woods City Schools in Cincinnati. Ohio schools have not seen state funding increase since 2009, and his teachers and superintendent have not received raises in several years, he said. At the same time, the poverty rate in his school district has increased 70 percent and the number of English Language learners has quadrupled.
Pennycuff urged his representative, Speaker of the House John Boehner, “Please do not do this to my students.”
If sequestration occurs, “All the advancements we’ve made in various reforms across the state will go into regression, almost overnight,” said NSBA President C. Ed Massey, a member of the Boone County (Ky.) Board of Education. “If we lose this ground, it will take decades to overcome.”
More than 430 school boards across the country have passed resolutions asking Congress and the White House to spare education funding from federal cuts.
To learn more about NSBA’s efforts and see sample resolutions, editorials, and other materials, go to the Stop Sequestration webpage at www.nsba.org/stopsequestration.