As schools start looking towards gearing up for their new school year, many are forced to confront a drastic reduction in federal funding due to the sequester cuts that took place this year on March 1. While these cuts did not take place instantaneously, the Department of Education’s budget was among those non-defense discretionary funds that took an automatic, 5%, across-the-board spending reduction, to impact schools beginning with the 2013 school year. According to the Department of Education’s blog, the sequester cut Title I funding by $725 million, which affects 1.2 million students in disadvantaged schools and risks the jobs of about 10,000 teachers and aides. $600 million was cut from the IDEA program, which means states and districts now have to cover the cost of approximately 7,200 special education teachers, and aides. The Head Start program also took a hit, potentially affecting nearly 70,000 students in the program. The Department’s blog also includes a state-by-state breakdown of the cuts, released by the White House, as well as a look at how it impacts the 100 largest districts in the country. All told, there is a loss of nearly $5 billion education dollars.
While all of these numbers can seem abstract and difficult to realize at a local level, in practice what they mean are larger classroom sizes, fewer teachers, a reduction of elective courses, cuts to after-school programs or student enrichment opportunities, and less access to quality early education. The National PTA has created a Sequestration Toolkit page to help you effectively advocate against the sequestration cuts. In addition to background information, National PTA has prepared templates for writing letters to your local and regional newspapers and your members of Congress to highlight the impact of sequestration on your district and regional schools. Utilizing the sequestration “invoice” available on our toolkit page, you can take some time to talk to your district leaders about how sequestration will affect your local schools during the 2013-2014 school year then rally your local PTA unit and community members to “take action!”
While it may seem like it is too late to change the sequestration cuts because the law took effect in March, the upcoming school year is actually a great time to remind Congress of the law’s damaging effects to education! The cuts have the potential to stay in place for 10 years if not reversed, so parents, families, and community members must continue to voice their opposition to the cuts. State and local PTA units can take the lead in advocating to end the sequester funding reductions. Be sure to share your sequester stories with PTA in the comments section below!
For state-specific information on the sequester’s education budget impact, you can check out the National Education Association’s state-by-state impact assessment. To gain an understanding of the sequester’s effect on the budget as a whole, check out the video below from NDD United.
Erica Lue is an Advocacy Coordinator for the National PTA in Alexandria, VA. Contact Erica at firstname.lastname@example.org.