By Amanda Litvinov
Before leaving town for recess last week, Congress whipped up and passed a bill to address the flight delays caused by their earlier inaction on the across-the-board federal spending cuts known as the sequester.
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Of course, restoring funding to the Federal Aviation Authority did more than just put a stop to annoying flight delays for the privileged. It also curbed the potential safety risks brought on by fewer air traffic controllers and others whose work contributes to safety in the skies.
But the swift passage of the Reducing Flight Delays Act has left students, parents, educators and all public school advocates asking why it is any less crucial to reverse the $3 billion in federal education cuts already beginning to affect classrooms across the country.
Susan Cangro, a Title 1 teacher at a small rural school in Colchester, Illinois, sees all too clearly what those cuts will mean for her students, roughly 40 percent of whom live in poverty. Unless Title I funds are restored or replaced, Cangro will not have a position to return to in the fall.
“If our current level of funding doesn’t come through, my school will struggle and ultimately fail to provide quality interventions. They will be forced to spread one Title 1 teacher across two buildings,” explained Cangro. “This would make the other teachers’ jobs in my building much more difficult and it will be devastating to my students who are very poor and needy on many levels.”
A whopping $740 million dollars was cut from Title I because Congress did not stop or reverse the reckless sequester cuts. IMPACT Aid, another federal education program that provides crucial support to high poverty schools was cut by $58 million along with various forms of aid for rural schools, some of which have actually been asked to return a total of $15.6 million in aid distributed earlier this year.
An NEA analysis shows that federal education spending will revert to pre-2004 levels, despite the fact that public schools serve 6 million more students.
Cangro, who is losing her job after several frustrating years searching for a teaching position, says lawmakers should also be aware of how middle-class families like hers will suffer as a result of these reckless cuts.
“We haven’t been able to buy a house or provide the kind of life for our children that we would like to. We have depleted our savings and accumulated a mountain of debt,” she says.
In other words, she will not be jumping on a plane for a family vacation any time soon.
“It’s time to get away from this piecemeal approach to dealing with the consequences of these irresponsible cuts and focus on a balanced approach to deficit reduction,” said Mary Kusler, director of federal advocacy at the National Education Association.
“The share of federal revenues coming from corporate taxes has shrunk by two-thirds over the past 50 years, and our tax code favors the wealthy, who benefit the most from deductions and other tax benefits,” said Kusler. “That’s revenue our schools need and our students deserve.”
“It’s not enough to make sure the planes run on time. These cuts are hurting children and students right now. Where is the bill to end their sequester cuts?”