GOOD

Why the Ticking Time Bomb of 'Sequestration' Could Decimate Education

A legislative practice of cutting funding after its already been budgeted will affect up to 7.5 million students unless we demand action.


Congress has concocted a ticking time bomb that is set to go off on the nation's K-12 schools, colleges, and universities in January 2013. "Sequestration," a term you will be hearing more about in the coming months, is a fancy legislative word for cutting funding after it has already been budgeted. In practice, what this means is that Congress takes back federal funds after they've been dis­bursed.

How we got to this point is even more complex and convoluted than the word itself. As part of last summer's debt ceiling deal, congressional leaders were required to come up with a plan to trim $1.2 trillion from the national debt by Thanksgiving. As an incentive for both Republicans and Democrats to reach a deal, automatic across-the-board spend­ing cuts were to be initiated if the dead­line passed without a budget agreement. Of course Congress failed to strike a deal.


The one saving grace was that the funding cuts wouldn't actually take effect until January 2013—more than a year after the original Thanksgiving deadline. This should have given Congress plenty of time to defuse the situation, but now with seven months until the January 2013 dead­line, Congress still hasn’t come up with a viable plan to resolve the issue.

These across-the-board cuts were designed to be evenly split between defense and nondefense spending as a way to threaten everyone's pet initiative and bring all sides to the bargaining table. Estimates are that when the January 2013 deadline comes, federal programs will be cut by more than 8 percent from their current FY12 funding levels.

The U.S. Department of Education would see a loss of $4.1 billion. Title I, the cornerstone of federal K–12 aid to schools, would be especially hard hit with a $1.2 billion cut from its current budget. According to the Committee for Education Funding—ASCD, the international education leadership organization I serve as executive director and CEO of, is a member—such a cut would adversely affect services to more than 1.7 million educationally disad­vantaged children. Similarly, federal spe­cial education funding would lose more than $1 billion that currently supports 536,000 students with disabilities.

Other programs that would suffer include Teacher Quality State Grants (-$207 million); TRIO and GEAR UP (-$96 million combined); career, technical, and adult education (-$146 million); and col­lege student aid programs that support 2 million students, which would see fund­ing cuts of approximately $150 million.

As disappointing as the funding figures are, it is the personal impact that will be most devastating. Up to 7.5 mil­lion students will have their educational services curtailed in some way, and approximately 90,000 educators stand to lose their jobs.

The impending cuts come at an espe­cially bad time: the stimulus money has run out for states and school districts; key federal education programs like Title I and IDEA have seen no funding increases in recent years—just as they are being asked to serve more students and to higher stan­dards—and smaller K–12 programs have been completely eliminated, with a net loss of $1.2 billion in federal funding.

Worst of all, the sequestration will occur in the middle of the 2012–13 school year, so educators will have to not only find a way to accurately plan next year’s school budget but also scramble to develop contingency plans to deal with massive midyear programmatic cuts should they actually come to pass. Indeed, it is not even clear right now how and when schools and districts are to return their federal funds should seques­tration take effect.

To avoid this weapon of fiscal destruc­tion, Congress must repeal the sequestra­tion mandate before it is too late. But it won’t be easy. Brinkmanship is quickly replacing negotiation and compromise as Congress' preferred legislative tactic. In a time and situation like this, education leaders must step forward and appeal to legislators in both parties to craft a sen­sible, long-term fiscal plan for the nation that avoids short-term and haphazard budget cuts that imperil investments in education.

Contact your lawmakers today and urge them to repeal sequestration now. To help, ASCD has set up a website where you can learn more about sequestration, the effect of the looming budget disaster on your own local school’s budget, and email your members of Congress demanding that they stop the folly of sequestration.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Articles
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health