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Why the Fiscal Cliff Deal Doesn't Solve Our Education Funding Crisis

Schools are left teetering on an uncertain precipice.

Even though the Constitution leaves the responsibility for education up to states, what's going on at the federal level has a significant impact on your local school. That's why educators across the nation are joining everyone else in breathing a sigh of relief that the fiscal cliff crisis has been averted. Without the deal, nearly 7.5 mil­lion students would have lost educational services and 90,000 educators would be heading to the unemployment line. But does this deal mean education's out of the woods? Not even close.

As the Washington Post points out, the deal "fails to defuse the prospect of a catastrophic national default two months from now" and it "does not raise the debt ceiling, leaving the Treasury to use what it calls 'extraordinary measures' as long as it can to pay the government's bills."

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten summed the problem up best, noting that, "Kicking the can down the road for two months means that we still face the possibility of staggering and debilitating cuts to public schools, health care and services that our kids and families count on."

Indeed, a looming $1.2 billion cut to Title I funding alone will reduce or eliminate education services for over 1.7 million low income children and federal spe­cial education funding could still be slashed by $1 billion, eliminating support for 536,000 students and resulting in 12,000 special education teachers and paraprofessionals losing their jobs. That means school districts still face significant financial uncertainty as they make budgets for the 2013-2014 school year.

The irony is that the same politicians that are in favor of across the board cuts that would eliminate these much-needed education services are the ones who tend to spew rhetoric about "no excuses" education reform and putting children first. Well, moving this fight to March certainly isn't helping America's children. And, as Weingarten says, "it's no way to govern a great nation and it undermines our democracy."

Close-up shot of U.S. bank notes photo via Shutterstock

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