New report confirms: Congress must find balanced approach in avoiding fiscal cliff


By Amanda Litvinov

The Office of Management and Budget confirms what EdVotes readers already know: That the across-the-board cuts that go into effect Jan. 2 if Congress doesn’t act to stop us from going over the “fiscal cliff” will have a devastating effect on public education. It also advises lawmakers to take great care in choosing a path to avoid it.

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OMB, which in part advises the President on the federal budget, released a 400–page report  on Friday that called sequestration, the process that will trigger the automatic cuts, a “blunt and indiscriminate instrument” that would “undermine investments vital to economic growth; threaten the safety and security of the American people; and cause severe harm to programs that benefit the middle class, seniors, and children.”

Specifically, the sequester would force an 8.2 percent cut to the part of the budget called Non-Defense Discretionary (NDD)spending, which includes public education and all other programs that Congress funds through the appropriations process: public health, medical research, infrastructure, and housing and social services. It would reduce education spending to levels not seen in a decade even though public schools serve 5.4 million more students than they did 10 years ago. NEA estimates that more than 9 million students would be affected, including those who rely on federal programs that support rural schools, low-income families and special education students. 

The only way to avoid the indiscriminate, mandatory cuts is for lawmakers to agree on a budget that works to reduce the deficit. But here’s the one reality scarier than peering over the edge of that fiscal cliff: There are some in Congress whose proposals to avoid going over would do even worse things to public education and all those other programs that benefit us all than sequestration itself.

In its report, OMB called Republican efforts to focus solely on cuts to the NDD side of the budget—which represents only 15 percent of all federal spending—“irresponsible.” (For a better understanding of Non-Defense Discretionary spending, check out this interactive pie chart.) A prime example is GOP Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, which panders to the nation’s wealthiest citizens and corporations and would cost the government around $2 trillion in tax revenue over the next 10 years.

The Obama Administration has called for Congress to find a balanced approach that includes asking the richest citizens and corporations to pay their fair share.

The House passed a six-month spending bill last week that would keep the government funded until late March, which the Senate is expected to send to the President’s desk later this week. That bill prevents a government shutdown when the current budget year ends on Sept. 30, but does not change the equation when it comes to the sequester.

The National Education Association is currently updating program-by-program and state-specific analyses based on the new figures released by the Office of Management and Budget. We will let you know when the new charts are ready!

In the meantime, contact your members of Congress to let them know that America’s schoolchildren deserve a fair and balanced budget solution that avoids the sequester.

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