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Sequestration and Education: Budget Cuts Threaten Equal Educational Opportunities

March 4, 2013

Leah Rosenzweig

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As the sequester takes effect, questions loom over how across-the-board budget cuts will affect federally-funded education programs.While most school programs will not experience the brunt of these cuts until the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, schools nationwide must ready themselves for the consequences of the sequester. Nearly $3 billion in education funding will be cut this fiscal term.

The National Education Association (NEA) has asserted that, particularly in these troubling economic times, investing in education makes both good fiscal sense and good public policy. The impact of the sequester will likely exacerbate contemporary efforts to enhance federal funding for education programs. In a press conference Friday morning, President Obama expressed his own dismay at Congress’ failure to avert the onset of budget cuts, stating: “We shouldn’t be making a series of dumb, arbitrary cuts to things that businesses depend on and workers depend on like education and research.” Despite the sequestration, the president has vouched to still move forward on his preschool proposal.

It is important that individuals understand what sorts of programs will bear the consequences of the cuts and how their particular state will be impacted. Funding for alternative education and standard education programs for students living in poverty, as well as special education and Head Start programs will experience large budget cuts. In Texas, $50.16 million will be lost in Special Education grants alone. Many other states will experience loses of tens, even hundreds of millions, in not just K-12 program cuts, but also in Federal Work-Study and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants for college and university students. Although most of these cuts will not take effect until the Fall, schools funded by the Department of Defense and Native American schools will feel the effect of the sequester immediately.

In his testimony to the Appropriations Committee on the impacts of sequestration, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, remarked: “Sequestration would hit hard at Federal, State, and local efforts to improve educational opportunities for the Nation’s neediest students and their families. …Sequestration would reduce Title I funding by some $725 million, potentially eliminating support to an estimated 2,700 schools serving 1.2 million disadvantaged students.”

For more information of how your state’s federally-funded education programs will be affected, visit the National Education Association’s State-by-State Impact of Sequestration on Federal Education Programs page.

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