Teachers in districts nationwide are already receiving pink slips as administrators brace for the major education budget cuts set to occur with the March 1 sequestration, says Education Secretary Arne Duncan. If congressional lawmakers are unable to compromise on another plan to trim the national budget, Department of Education funding will be scaled back 9 percent just this year alone, according to the national Center on Budget & Policy Priorities. Head Start and special education program funding would be two of the hardest hit, and slashed by hundreds of millions of dollars each, Duncan says. And up to 40,000 teachers and other school employees could face layoffs due to the planned, across-the-board cutbacks totaling $85 billion nationally.
“Sequestration is a bad policy. It cuts all programs by the same percentage, no matter the purpose or the performance,” says Duncan. “By reducing education funding now and in the coming years, it would jeopardize our nation’s ability to develop and support an educated, skilled workforce that can compete in the global economy.”
If the cuts are enacted, Duncan says, administrators must decide how to decrease their budgets on a district-by-district basis, be it by firing teachers, shortening school days, cutting after-school programs or other belt-tightening measures.
“The cuts are going to happen Friday—I have no question in my mind about that,” says Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), a member of the Education and the Workforce Committee. However, they are not definitive, he adds. Representatives will have the month of March to come to a compromise before making final budget decisions. And even if cuts are enacted, most will not go into effect until the 2013-2014 school year, Roe says, giving administrators time to prepare.