At school year’s end, students and schools already feeling sequester cuts


Don’t let anyone tell you that the reckless, across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester haven’t hit yet. Though the full effects won’t be known for months or even years, the cuts are already changing the lives of public school students, their families, and the educators who serve them (you can share your story here).

Take the case of Mary (her name has been changed), a third-grader who needs substantial academic support.

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“Mary needs more help than I can give her as a resource teacher,” said Michael McDonough of Salt Lake City. “When I put in the request for aide time, which would enable Mary to continue to attend her neighborhood school, I was told by district administration not to expect the request to be approved because of across-the-board federal budget cuts.

“So congratulations, Congress. Your inaction has already hurt the neediest kid at my school.”

Mary may have been her school’s first victim of the sequester, but she won’t be the last. Congress’s inaction allowed more than $3 billion in cuts to go into effect in March. Programs and services meant to help the nation’s most vulnerable students—among them those living in poverty, those who require special education, English language learners and college students struggling to afford their education–will be slashed or lost altogether.

“Programs like Title One and special education make it possible for disadvantaged and disabled children to get an appropriate education at their neighborhood school,” said McDonough. “When aide hours get cut, these kids lose the supports they need to be successful.  Please do your job, Congress.  We teachers are trying to do ours, but we can’t do it without you.”

You can help us show Congress what they’ve done–share how sequester cuts are affecting your students.

It’s true that the extent of the devastation caused by the sequester will be revealed in the coming months and years, but here are some of the education programs and school communities we know have already been affected by sequester cuts:

  • Thousands of children living in poverty have lost access to early childhood education.

Head Start, a federal program that provides preschool to low-income families, will be slashed by $406 million due to sequestration. This will have a devastating effect on the 5.1 million children under the age of five living in poverty, many of whom have already been turned away from their local Head Start.

“We need to provide pre-K for all children, no matter their background,” said Christine Waller, an early childhood educator from Oregon. “This is the beginning of their education. Why wouldn’t we want them to start out right?” Find out more.

  • Schools in rural areas will not only lose funding they rely on for the next school year—they’ve been asked to send millions back to the government.

Among the first districts affected are those on or near federally protected land, which are removed from the local tax rolls leaving a far smaller amount of revenue traditionally used to fund public schools.

In March, governors in 41 states received letters from the Department of Agriculture demanding the return of $15.6 million in funds distributed in January under the Secure Rural Schools Act (SRSA), which was signed into law in 2000 to offset federal restrictions on timber harvesting. More than 4,400 schools in 770 rural U.S. counties rely on this money to meet basic budget demands.

“My small K-12 district of approximately 600 students has already eliminated so many things I’ve lost count” said Lynn Hill, from the Oregon tiny town of Glide—population 1,795—which is adjacent to Umpqua National Forest. “There’s no certified media specialist, or physical education or music teachers. We’ve cut administrators and classroom teachers and aides, leaving much larger class sizes.”  Find out more.

  • Schools that serve children of U.S. military families will be forced to close their doors as many as 11 days next fall.

Last month, the Pentagon announced plans to furlough teachers and classroom aides up to five days the upcoming school year and Educational Support Professionals (ESPs) as many as 11 days, forfeiting valuable class time and learning for the children of our armed forces members.

“Is this how we thank our service men and women?” asked one educator who teaches on a military base in Virginia.

“For these children, school is one of the things that holds them together, that they feel secure about when they have to move or when a parent deploys. These schools are their extended family.” Find out more, and what you can do to help.

  • Schools in low-income communities will have even less to work with as cuts to IMPACT Aid take effect.

“Basically it’s our key programs that help lower socio-economic students and students who need special education services who will be affected the most by the sequester cuts,” said Deana Hron, a Title I teacher from Deer River, Minnesota, which is bordered by the Leech Lake Indian Reservation and Chippewa National Forest.

“The cuts to IMPACT Aid alone puts our Title I services at risk, things like our reading recovery program for first-graders. It’s not clear whether we can continue to offer kindergarten four days per week.” Find out more.

  • Greater numbers of college students are discovering now that they are being cut from work-study programs.

The federal work-study program was cut by $49 million, which will drop about 33,000 students from one of our most important college affordability programs. Add this to cuts to the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (cut by $37 million, affecting about 71,000 students) and the bottom line is that more students in need won’t be able to afford college. “For some of them, it means going to college or not,” said NEA Student Program Chair David Tjaden. Find out more.


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