Sequestration is a mouthful of a word, but — if you’re a student, teacher or parent — it is one we’ll be talking a lot about soon unless Congress acts fast.
The massive automatic budget cuts, the result of a political deal between Republicans and Democrats to raise the federal debt ceiling, are scheduled to go into effect starting January 2. The cuts were intended as a carrot to get Congress to compromise on deficit reduction but no compromise has been reached. Enacted into law under the Budget Control Act last year, sequestration is looming over us as part of the “fiscal cliff.”
$1.2 trillion in cuts must be made over the next decade starting with $109 billion in overall cuts come the start of 2013. The White House Office of Management and Budget released a394 page report with precise details last week while emphasizing that the Obama administration is not behind the “deeply destructive” cuts, which it was obliged by law to publish.
Funding For Public Schools Could Be Cut to 2003 Levels
Everyone wrings their hands over the state of America’s schools. But sequestration will turn back the clock for U.S. students to 2003, as it would decrease eduction funding to the levels of a decade ago.
That’s a real problem because, in the past ten years, U.S. schools added 5.4 million students at a time when tax cuts for the wealthy have reduced school district’s budgets, says Dennis Van Roekel, President of the National Education Association (NEA) in Education Week. U.S. public schools could lose a total of $4.8 billion, an analysis by the NEA reveals.
Funding For Students with Disabilities Could Be Cut to 2001 Levels
Kids with disabilities like my son are covered under the federal Individuals with Education Act (IDEA) but, under sequestration, more than a billion dollars could be lost from federal funding for special education. The reduced funding would mean that school districts would have to rely on state and local governments to provide students with the appropriate services mandated under IDEA.
Since 2006, costs for special education have risen 25 percent, according to the NEA’s analysis (pdf). Sequestration would turn back the clock, with funding reduced to near-2001 levels.
College Students Face Higher Fees For Certain Loans
Fees for unsubsidized Stafford student loans will rise by 7.6 percent to about 1.1 percent of a total loan. PLUS-loan and unsubsidized-loan fees would rise slightly, from about 4 percent to about 4.3 percent of a total loan. These are small differences but, as I know from a recent conversation with a very stressed-out student (whose sibling just started college and who has a brother who will soon), any increase in college fees has the potential to create financial havoc.
Fortunately, Pell Grants for students from lower-income backgrounds would not be affected.
Billions and Millions Could Be Cut From Life-Saving Medical Research Funding
Basic research is crucial to developing new medicines and treatments that can save lives. The National Institutes of Health face a cut of 8.2 percent of their $30 billion appropriation, a loss of funds amounting to more than $2.5 billion. The National Science Foundation faces losses of as much as $586 million; the Department of Energy Office of Science, cuts of as much as $400 million.
Your Job Could Be Cut
These cuts don’t mean that scientists would have to cut back on lab supplies, but on jobs such as those for laboratory technicians and researchers. Via Raw Story, Judith S. Bond, president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), says that “the loss of funds due to sequestration will curtail vital research projects at universities and institutions in all 50 states and result in layoffs of thousands of Americans.”
The NEA’s analysis (pdf) also predicts that 80,000 Americans employed in public education could lose their jobs.
Sequestration is the ugly legacy of the “crisis” over the debt ceiling that the GOP, “egged on by Tea Party extremists in Congress,” used to hold “the nation hostage,” as Roekel writes in Education Week. All the cuts detailed above could have, should have, been avoided.
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