Uncertainty For K-12 Education in Debt Ceiling Deal


It’s not yet clear what the deal to raise the federal debt ceiling portends for K- 12 students. Given that the deal calls for (1) a ten-year cap on federal spending, (2) a $7 billion reduction in fiscal 2012 spending and (3) $1.5 trillion more in cuts over the next 10 years as determined by a new congressional committee, funding for the Department of Education will be affected.

As Michele McNeil writes at EdWeek, all those cuts would mean a budget reduction of about 6.7 percent in most agencies or about $3 billion overall, according to the Committee for Education Funding. Writes McNeil:

In looking at the new cap on federal discretionary spending of $7 billion below current levels, the Committee for Education Funding points out the current levels already reflect $1.25 billion in education cuts imposed in the current-year budget battle that consumed Congress a few months ago.

“We fear that education programs will face multiple rounds of cuts under the initial reduction in appropriated funds proposed in the [debt reduction] bill and from the joint committee’s plan or from sequestration,” the committee wrote today in a letter to members of Congress.

U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., doesn’t think this looks good. In an Associated Press story, he forecasts that the spending cuts are “going to make life much more difficult for” for public schools. However, a spokeswoman for Miller couldn’t elaborate on exactly how schools would feel the effects, or what the magnitude or timing would be.

With fewer federal funds going to states, states will have to dip into their own budgets to fund K-12 education, “a huge fiscal responsibility,” McNeil writes.

One area that states rely on federal funding heavily for is special education: The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) mandates that all students with disabilities receive a “free and appropriate education.” The average cost of educating a student with a disability is higher than for the average student, due to a student with a disability needing (for instance) a smaller teacher-to-student ratio, services including speech therapy and occupational therapy, specialized teaching, specialized equipment and transportation to a school that may not be the student’s neighborhood school. School districts often look to the federal government to fund special education, which — under IDEA — they are mandated to provide.

With fewer dollars to educate all students, school districts — who’ve already had a very tough year, with K-12 budgets cut by $1.8 billion nationwide — have many more hard choices ahead of them. According to the Los Angeles Times, cuts to K-12 in the new fiscal year could reach $2.5 billion. In other words, there will be more teachers fired, more days cut from the academic calendar and more programs from pre-kindergarten to summer school to those for the gifted slashed. What this means for our nation’s children and our nation’s future is anybody’s educated guess.

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Randi L.
Randi Levin6 years ago

It is very scary that the GOP and thier warped agenda to ONLY SAY NO will allow their own children suffer and pay for thier personal mistakes!

Even those kids in their lovely private schools will feel the backlash of their failures for years to come.

Anne Brabson
Anne B6 years ago

What a mess! Federal cuts in education spending continue in Congress at the expense of all those truly in need of public education! State budgets in the economic reality of 2011 can't and won't allow for increased educational spending either. What kind of American public education will be available for the millions of children unable to afford private education 10 years from now-I shudder to think!!!

Rene D.
Rene D6 years ago

What's amazing is that we all sit on our thumbs until this kind of things passes and then scream when our kids lose their education and seniors lose soc sec, medicare and medicaid. After years of cutting money to education in Colorado due to idiotic Republican budgeting laws FINALLY people are suing the state as test score fall and class sizes rise. Let's not wait until this happens to all the schools in the country--protest NOW. Vote the Tea Party out. Seniors also get together and vote them out and push back on these states that are passing laws to make it hard for liberals to vote. We need to act BEFORE it all flushes down the toilet. It's much harder (and way more expensive) to keep what we've got than to regain what we've lost.

Past Member
.6 years ago

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Joslynne Davidson

Shut down all those schools and let the children run the streets. Seeing as most of their parents won't be working soon, we will need the children to beg on the streets. Focusing on Florida, Atlanta, Branson, Washington D.C. etc would bring in the most tourist money. Who needs school?

J C Bro
J C Brou6 years ago

Thank you for this.

Wayne M.
Wayne M6 years ago

Well, you can raise taxes on the wealthy and profitable corporations now to ensure education is fully funded-- or you can pay a lot more later on to clean up the mess when too many children with learning disabilities and difficulties that were allowed to "fall through the cracks" become adults and have trouble finding adequate employment.

Season S.
Seaspn S6 years ago

Get rid of the misguided NCLB and take some of the federal heat off of the states.

Austin R.
Austin Rotter6 years ago

Awesome... Kids hate school anyway. Now they'll only have to go a for a few half days and really just be crowded around a television by someone making minimum wage to push the play button.

Derp Herpington
.6 years ago

Welcome to the United States of Derp. Please leave your brain at the border. No intelligent thought allowed here.

Keep it up. 10 years from now your kids will think 2 2 = squirrel.