The Edmond Sun

November 17, 2012

Schools eye sequestration cuts

Patty Miller
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — The Budget Control Act of 2011 will impose across-the-board cuts of about 8.2 percent to education and other domestic programs in Fiscal Year 2013 unless Congress intervenes by Jan. 2.

Sequestration would apply to defense budgets but also to federal activities from education to job training to medical research, child care, worker safety, food safety, national parks, border security and safe air travel among other programs.

“These essential government services directly touch every family in America, and they will be subject to deep, arbitrary cuts under sequestration,” said Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education and Related Agencies in his July 25 report, “Under Threat.”

“Most school districts would not see any impact until the 2013-14 school year, but those consequences will be severe,” Harkin said.  

Furthermore, he added these cuts will continue during a 10-year period and will have a devastating effect on schools, eroding the base of funding for key programs year after year.

The end result for many of the nation’s public schools would be larger class sizes, fewer course offerings, four-day school weeks, fewer extracurricular activities, less access to intervention programs and teacher/staff layoffs, said Deborah Rigsby, the National School Board Association’s director of federal legislation.

What sequestration means to the district

Sequestration is a plan to cut about $1.2 trillion from the federal budget in an even split, about 8.3 percent, across the board. Under sequestration, an additional $500 billion will be cut from defense spending with a loss of 740 jobs nationwide, due to the first $450 billion in cuts.

Nationwide, sequestration would cut education funding by more than $4 billion. States and local communities would lose $2.7 billion in federal funding for just three critical education programs alone, Harkin said. “Title I, special education state grants and Head Start — that serves a combined 30.7 million children. Nationwide, these cuts would force 46,349 employees to either lose their jobs or rely on cash-strapped states and localities to pick up their salaries instead.

 “This is just some of the damage that would be done with the sort of indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts that Congress will go through with if it doesn’t act to stop sequestration,” Harkin said.

State School Board Associations speak out

Rigsby invited three presidents of school board associations across the nation to take part in a media teleconference this week discussing the impact to public education if sequestration is put into effect for the 2013 school year.

Joining Oklahoma’s Dustin Tackett, president of the Oklahoma School Boards Association and president of the Caddo Kiowa Technology Center Board of Education in Fort Cobb, were Jill Wynns, president of the California School Boards Association and a school board member of the San Francisco Unified School District, and Juandiego Wade, Virginia School Boards Association Federal Relations chairman and vice chairman of the Charlottesville City School District.

According to the association, the following impacts could occur under sequestration:

• Oklahoma receives $98 million for the Head Start program and the sequester cut of $7.6 million will result in the loss of 258 Head Start jobs and 1,236 fewer children served.

• Title I Grants received FY 12 funding of $161 million and the FY 13 sequester cut of $12.5 million will mean 173 education jobs lost, 31,238 fewer students served and 92 fewer schools receiving grant funds.

• Improving Teacher Quality State Grants FY 12 funding is $28 million and the FY 13 sequester cut will be $24 million. This means 2,488 fewer teachers serving 39,241 students will receive professional development.

• Special Education grants will be hit extremely hard, the education experts said. FY 12 Oklahoma receives $147.7 million and FY 13 sequester cuts means a loss of $11.5 million translating to 139 jobs no longer supported by federal funding.

Wynns said 1 in 8 students in America go to school in California.

“Most of the direct impact will be on entitlement programs,” Wynns said. “Education always suffers when entitlement programs are cut.”

In California FY 12 Title I funding is $1.65 billion and sequestration FY 13 will cut $138.6 million from the state’s budget. According to the associations, this will cause the loss of 1,920 education jobs and will serve 296,272 fewer students with 506 fewer schools receiving grant funds. Out of the $1.22 billion in Special Education Grants for FY 12, California will lose $99.4 million resulting in the loss of 1,199 jobs.

 In Virginia FY 12 Head Start funding is $115.7 million and FY 13 sequester cuts would be $8.02 million with a loss of 301 Head Start jobs and 1,444 fewer children served. Title I grants to local education agencies funded in 2012 at $230 million would see a sequester cut of $20.1 million or a loss of 276 education jobs lost, 20,125 fewer students served and 64 fewer schools would receive grant funds.

Wade said the question is should voters not expect Congress to do what school boards do, which is set budget priorities rather than govern by formula.

Tackett added Oklahoma State Board of Education members are being encouraged to enter into a dialogue with local senators and congressmen.

“At this point we are hoping the direct interaction will have a positive effect and will help encourage them to do the right thing,” Tackett said.

FOR MORE information on sequestration and how school board members can bring education into the debate, see the National School Board Action Center at