America’s students face the budget cliff


By Amanda Litvinov/illustration by Mark Gilmour

Remember that classic cartoon moment when Wile E. Coyote, hot in pursuit of the uncatchable Road Runner, realizes that he’s run right off the edge of a cliff and is about to plummet? Well, in terms of the federal budget, we’re getting awfully close to that precipice.

That’s right, folks, we’re nearing the edge of what is now being referred to as a budget cliff. If Congress does not find a more balanced way of reducing the federal deficit, across-the-board budget cuts to discretionary programs that kick in Jan. 2, 2013,  will leave us all lying deep in a valley with stars circling our noggins.

Students and working families will take the hardest hits of all, starting with education.

Education funding would drop roughly 8.4 percent to pre-2003 levels, even though schools have added 5.4 million students since that time. It would mean $4.8 billion in cuts in the year 2013 alone. From pre-Kindergarten to higher education, nearly all federal education program budgets would be hacked: Title I, IDEA, Teacher Quality grants, after-school programs, rural education, English Language Learner grants, and Career and Technical education among them. Take a look at NEA’s detailed analysis and summaries to find out more about how education will be affected if we go over the budget cliff.

Using data from the Congressional Budget Office and non-partisan policy organizations, NEA estimates that upwards of 80,000 more education jobs could be lost if Congress doesn’t act. So what would it take to bring the budget back from the brink?


“Lawmakers should let tax cuts for the wealthy expire and close federal tax loopholes that do nothing to strengthen our economy,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. Asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share seems like a good place to start—unless, that is, we want schoolchildren to make all the sacrifices.

The EdVotes team will revisit this topic, to explore the consequences of “sequestration” of funding for education and other services critical to reviving the middle class.

In the meantime, if you’re scared of heights, we suggest you don’t look down.

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