The March 1 deadline for sequestration of $85 billion federal funds came and went, which means that school adminstrators nationwide will be forced to cut 8 to 9 percent from programs supporting students with special needs, those who are poor and/or homeless and Head Start students for the 2013-2014 school year.
President Obama met with with congressional leaders at the White House for about 45 minutes on Friday, but the two sides could not reach agreement. The sequestration cuts officially took effect just before midnight Saturday. This package of across-the-board spending cuts total $85 billion for the current fiscal year and $1.2 trillion during the next decade.
The initial $85 billion in federal spending cuts would not be implemented all at once but would occur between March 1 and Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends. The U.S. Department of Education is facing cuts ranging from 7.8 percent in 2013 to 5.5 percent in 2021, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) estimates that education cuts will total nearly $3 billion.
AASA spokeswoman Noelle Ellerson confirmed that the Head Start, Title I and II, IDEA, ADA and McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act programs are all subject to the sequester and would feel the impact as early as August, when the 2013-2014 school year begins.
"The McKinney-Vento funds will be cut immediately, but it won't be felt until the 2013-14 school year," said Ellerson, adding that this applies to Title 1 and Perkins grants as well. "The federal funds they will have in the next school year will all be cut."
"We are hearing from superintendents that they are very stressed about this. Whether or not the federal funds are there, schools will always open their doors for students," she added.
Ellerson explained that the student transportation industry would feel additional budget impacts — beyond the cuts to preschool and special needs programs — as the Super Storm Sandy supplemental appropriations bill does not include McKinney-Vento funding for the hard-hit states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. So, school districts in these states would lose some of the financial support they rely on to provide transportation services to homeless students.
"We were looking to get a $20-million transfer out of a state development grant, but we didn't get an amendment," she continued. "The only way to get the money available was to use funding from that transfer in McKinney-Vento-approved uses. Schools would have been able to use that $20 million for transportation under McKinney-Vento."
In a Feb. 8 press release, the White House shared examples of how sequestration would impact various government programs, including the loss of 125,000 Housing Choice Vouchers. It stated that 100,000 formerly homeless people, including families with children, "would be removed from their current housing and emergency shelter programs" because of cuts to Homeless Assistance Grants.
In response, Ellerson said: "This will only compound an already terrible situation for these schoolchildren."