Update [7/23/12]: On July 23, the U.S. Department of Education released a memo to chief state school officers announcing that major K12 programs will not be subjected to the 8.4 percent across the board sequestration cuts in the middle of the 2012-2013 school year that was originally predicted.
The memo read, "Assuming Congress enacts a 2013 appropriations bill that is structured similarly to the pending House or Senate bills—a reasonable assumption based on past practice—there is no reason to believe that a sequestration would affect funding for the 2012–13 school year."
According to ASCD Director of Public Policy David Griffith, the good news is the cuts aren’t occurring now, while the bad news they still loom on the horizon.
“Schools will be facing this draconian cut next summer,” says Griffith.
While the Department of Education’s announcement comes as a relief to many schools, the timing of the announcement is somewhat problematic to many districts. Griffith says that many schools had already built into their 2012-2013 budget the predicted sequestration cuts.
“The cuts will be felt [this year], and when the cut does actually happen—we will feel it again,” says Griffith.
The Department of Education is still hoping Congress stops sequestration by January 2013 to avoid across-the-board cuts.
In the memo sent by U.S. Department of Education Deputy Secretary Anthony Miller, the DOE urges Congress to produce a balanced budget plan.
“The sequestration was not meant to be implemented; it was meant to drive Congress to enact a balanced deficit reduction plan through the threat of destructive cuts.”
[Original story 7/20/12] This time last summer, D.C. was abuzz with the “will they” or “won’t they” conversations surrounding the raising of the national debt ceiling. Ultimately, the debt ceiling was raised—but not without one caveat. The House asked that $1 trillion be cut from national debt over the course of a decade, also known as sequestration. One year later, the U.S. Congress’ Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction has yet to identify discretionary cuts, and unless a resolution is reached by January 2013 to identify individual programs to be cut or forgo sequestration altogether, federal funding will be reduced across the board to all federal departments.
With such an enormous economic tidal wave approaching this fiscal year, the amount of information available regarding sequestration and its actual impact has been remarkably scarce. Although Capitol Hill has a track record of averting disaster at the eleventh hour, David Griffith, director of public policy at ASCD, feels there is no reason to assume that to be the case this time around.
“This is a reality everyone needs to deal with,” says Griffith. “Given the economic climate we’re in and budget situation, this will add to the pain with cuts of larger proportions. With cuts across the board, this is a lazy person’s way of balancing the budget.”
Griffith says that, for school districts, this will mean an estimated 8.4 percent reduction in their federally funded programs. ASCD predicts Title I will be cut by $1.2 billion, IDEA by just under $1 billion, and Teacher Quality State Grants by over $200 million, along with many others.
The Exact Impact
On July 10, the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) released a study entitled “Cut Deep: How the Sequester Will Impact Our Nation’s Schools.” According to the report, which over 1,000 administrators participated in, 90 percent of respondents said their state would not be able to absorb or offset the cuts of sequestration and 89.5 percent said their district would be unable to, as well. In terms of planning ahead, 45.2 percent said they are waiting to see when and how sequestration unfolds before adjusting their budgets.
AASA’s respondents revealed the following reductions would be made in their schools as a result of this reduced funding;
• professional development (69.4 percent)
• reducing academic programs (58.1 percent)
• personnel layoffs (56.6 percent)
• increased class size (54.9 percent)
Further complicating matters is that the cuts will take place in the middle of the fiscal year, which begins October 1, 2012. Therefore, schools will already be spending 2013 dollars before the cuts go into place, resulting in the savings to be squeezed from the remaining months of the 2013 fiscal year, as opposed to a full year.
In addition to AASA’s report, ASCD’s Web site offers districts useful information and a sequestration calculator to estimate the potential impact they face. Griffith says there is also a link to communicate with Congress to share people’s feelings on the impending sequester.
“We think education is a long-term investment,” says Griffith. “We’re encouraging Congress to do their job in appropriating cuts.”