The Victims of the Education Sequester: Special-Needs Students and Poor Kids

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The sequester's guillotine has little regard for good or bad programs as it unselectively slices spending across the country, but perhaps nowhere does its indiscriminate blade fall more harshly than within education. The students who will lose out will be the ones we should be most careful to protect: children from poor families and special needs kids.

Federal funding for education will be slashed by 5.1 percent, until Congress can agree on a new budget. Though the federal government only makes up about 10 percent of the total education spending, this share is significant in every town budget. Schools need Washington's money to provide basic services for its students, as states and localities have faced their own budget crises in recent years.

To understand the severe unfairness of these cuts, let's start with a brief primer on federal education funding. The majority of federal funding for education is targeted for two groups of school kids -- the poor and the disabled. Title 1 (federal support for low-income school districts) and Head Start (the pre-school program for disadvantaged children) serve the disadvantaged kids. The Department of Education support for special education amounts to between a sixth and a quarter of education spending in any given year.

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