School boards across the country will be forced to lay off thousands of teachers and teacher aides in coming weeks as they create their budgets for the 2013-14 academic year because of the federal budget cuts scheduled to take place March 1.
The sequester, which will require across the board budget cuts for all federal programs on March 1, will eliminate about 5 percent of funding for K-12 programs and Head Start. However, representatives from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) pointed out in a press conference call this week that those cuts disproportionately affect school districts that are educating large populations of disadvantaged students.
Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, noted that many school districts are beginning to plan next year’s budgets, and in an informal survey, three-quarters said they would be issuing layoff notices this spring.
For some school districts, the process of issuing pink slips has already started.
Minnie Forte-Brown, a school board member in Durham, N.C., and chair of NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education, said her school district planned to eliminate 34 teacher and staff positions. Title I cuts would be about $800,000 of about $1.7 million in cuts that the 33,000 student school would endure for the next 10 years, special education would amount to another $600,000 each year.
The school board has already stopped filling vacant positions and has cut all travel and professional development.
“We are implementing extreme measures,” said Forte-Brown. “This is not the promise we made to our families when we said we were going to educate excellently.”
In rural Alabama, Steve Foster, vice president of the Lowndes County Board of Education, said his school district has already seen significant state cuts in recent years, and a further reduction from the federal government would diminish books and classroom supplies, teacher retention and professional development programs, and cuts to the library, where many parents and students who do not have home computers or internet access go to work on school assignments.
”Our school system has made great strides in the last 10 to 12 years. These cuts are going to affect the programs that help us make progress,” said Foster, who is also President of the Alabama Association of School Boards.
President Obama has frequently used education and early childhood examples in recent speeches about the impact of sequestration on the country. The White House released state-by-state estimates that include how much K-12 funding each state stands to lose, the number of teacher and staff jobs, the number of children that will lose access to Head Start, and other details. (The Washington Post published this graphic detailing the cuts.)
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program on February 24 to warn of the impact of the looming cuts to K-12 programs.
More than 700 school boards have passed resolutions urging Congress to stop the sequester. Go to NSBA’s website, www.nsba.org/stopsequestration, for sample letters, resolutions, and other activities for school boards.