by Félix Pérez/photo courtesy of cafemama
Its August recess over, Congress is back in session this week and next, focusing its energies on avoiding the threat of a government shutdown during election season. Chances are slim to none, however, that lawmakers will take up legislation that would avert significant hardship for students, working families and educators.
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Chief among the looming threats is the budget cliff that would hit January 2, 2013, because of “sequestration,” budget jargon for across-the-board cuts to programs and services that would hit students at every level from pre-K to higher education.
The funding cliff would affect more than 9 million students and eliminate or reduce a wide array of education services — everything from Head Start enrollment slots to financial aid for students from low-income families.
Teachers, education support professionals and higher education faculty would also feel the pain. More than 80,000 educator jobs could be eliminated, resulting in even larger class sizes at a time when student enrollment and needs continue to rise.
“Sequestration shortchanges students,” said Arizona high school math teacher and National Education President Dennis Van Roekel. Van Roekel made his comments in conjunction with the release of an NEA analysis that shows how many students and educators, as well as which education services, would be affected by state.
Students . . . will definitely feel the impact when they report to classes packed with more students. They will feel the impact when they don’t have a place to go before or after school. At a time when students need more, Congress is set to intentionally give them less, said Van Roekel.
Congress also appears likely to leave unaddressed — yet again — an extension of the educator tax deduction, which helps recognize the financial sacrifices made by teachers and education support professionals who year after year use their own money to purchase classroom supplies and essential items such as pencils, glue, scissors, and facial tissues. The latest figures reveal that educators spend an average of $477 each year out of their own pockets.