Today, the U.S. Senate held a hearing about the impact of sequestration on non-defense programs. What is sequestration?
The Budget Control Act of 2011 established a 12 member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction with the task of reducing the deficit by an additional $1.2 – $1.5 trillion over ten years. The legislation also included a sequestration hammer should the super committee fail, a provision intended as incentive for the Committee to act. Sequestration is a fiscal policy procedure adopted by Congress to deal with the federal budget deficit and is the cancellation of budgetary resources.
The failure of the Committee to produce a bill identifying budgetary savings of at least $1.2 trillion over ten has triggered an automatic spending reduction process that includes sequestration. For fiscal year 2013, automatic, across-the-board budget cuts will be applied to almost all federal education programs.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that for FY 2013 the cut will between 5.5 and 7.8% based on current funding levels, representing up to a $3.5 billion cut for education programs. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has estimated a worst-case scenario of 9.4%. At the rate, cuts could amount to $1.3 billion in Title I, $1.1 billion to IDEA, and $158 million to Career and Technical Education.
Cabinet Secretaries, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, testified about the impact of sequestration on federal programs under their jurisdiction. Secretary Duncan delivered a number of sobering facts including:
- Title I Grants to districts serve nearly 23 million students in high-poverty schools. Sequestration would reduce Title I funding by some $725 million, potentially eliminating support to an estimated 2,700 schools serving 1.2 million disadvantaged students, while also putting at risk the jobs of approximately 10,000 teachers.
- Federal Work-Study would be cut by $49 million, eliminating 33,000 students from participation.
- Special Education State Grants serve roughly 6.5 million special needs students. Sequestration would reduce formula grants by as much as $598 million, which would require states and districts to cover the cost of approximately 7,200 teachers, aides, and other staff.
- Federal college access programs, such as TRIO and GEAR UP, would see a 8.2% cut.
These devastating cuts disproportionally impact the families that depend on the funding to climb ladders of opportunity and would actually increase the opportunity gap in America. It is critical that Congress acts to prevent these cuts and instead find a balanced approach to deficit reduction.