Sequestration (The Fiscal Cliff)
Despite efforts by President Obama, Congress, and hundreds of advocacy groups, sequestration went into effect on March 1st. At this time it is unclear how soon the cuts will actually take place, and how long it will take for the effects to be felt in schools across the country. However, sequestration will have serious consequences for every program and service that currently relies on some level of Federal funding. Funding for education would drop to its lowest level since 2003, with $4.8 billion dollars cut in 2013 alone. An estimated 80,000 education related jobs and many critical services could potentially be lost. The US Department of Education has information on how the sequester will impact each individual state here.
In August 2011, Congress passed the Budget Control Act. Part of this legislation created a bi-partisan “super-committee” that was tasked with crafting a budget bill that would result in $1.5 trillion dollars in saving over the next 10 years. Because this committee could not reach a deal, an across the board cut to Federal spending, known as sequestration, was created to occur on January 2, 2013 unless Congress agreed on a long term budget plan. The sequester was designed as a highly aversive alternative, thereby incentivizing Congress to come up with a balanced long term budget deal to cut the deficit before January 2. Sequestration would ensure 1.5 trillion dollars in saving with 50% of the cuts coming from the Mandatory Defense Spending and 50% of savings coming from the Non-Defense Discretionary Budget.
Impact of Sequestration on Education and School Psychologists
Given that Congress did not agree on a long term budget, and sequestration went into effect March 1, 2013, funding for education will drop to its lowest level since 2003 level, despite the fact that our public school system educates 5.4 million more students since then. Federal education funding will face an estimated $4.8 billion dollars in cuts in 2013 alone. IDEA funding will be cut by $1 billion, Title 1 Funding will be cut by $1.8 Billion, education programs for homeless children will be cut by $5.3 million dollars, and an estimated 80,000 education related jobs may be lost as a result of the sequester. These cuts would be devastating to our children and would significantly hinder education reform efforts across the country. Some of these cuts would not occur immediately, as some federal funding (e.g., Title 1 and IDEA) is “forward funded”, meaning they are provided to school districts in July of each year. The cuts would not substantially impact the 2012-2013 school year, but would hit in July 2013. The sequester (across the board cut) will be taken from whatever funds are appropriated for the 2013-2014 Fiscal Year, which has some superintendents concerned that the cut will be close to 10% of the 2012-2013 school year budget.
A number of education associations have released in depth analyses of the impact of sequestration on education. The National Education Association (NEA) has released an interactive map that shows how much each state stands to lose in education funding and how many students will be hurt by the sequester cuts.
The American Association of School Administrators surveyed their members to understand how sequestration would impact local school districts in terms of personnel, curriculum, building facilities, and operations. Notably, school administrators indicated that they would deal with the funding cuts by reducing professional development opportunities, reducing academic programs (including prevention and intervention services), and lay-offs for non-instructional staff.
What is NASP doing?
In conjunction with our coalition partners, NASP is keeping various stakeholders informed of the impact of sequestration on education and services to students. Additionally, along with other organizations, we are collecting information on how the sequester has impacted school districts, schools, and the availability of school psychological services. We are continuing to advocate for the critical need for school psychologists and school psychological services.
What can you do?
Sequestration will have a potentially devastating impact on education and the services available to children. NASP has created an informal survey to gather information about how the sequester has impacted your job as a school psychologist and the services you provide to children. Please take some time to provide us with this valuable information so that we can further educate federal, state, and local policy makers about the need for sustained funding for education and school psychological services.