Federal Public Education Cuts Loom After Supercommittee Failure

A November 28 Straight A’s article discusses the failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (aka the “supercommittee”) to reach and agreement on federal budget reductions and the potential impact on education aid.  Straight A’s is a publication of the Alliance for Excellent Education, an advocacy group on federal policies related to improving high school student graduation rates and student achievement . 

Under a deal struck on August 2 to raise the nation’s debt limit, the supercommittee was created and charged with recommending a plan to reduce the nation’s deficit. A provision triggering automatic across-the-board cuts was included in the debt limit deal with hopes that it would compel the supercommittee to reach an agreement. Because of the supercommittee’s failure, these automatic across-the-board cuts totaling $1.2 trillion, formally called “sequestration,” will go into effect in January 2013. These cuts will impact both military and domestic spending, including spending on education programs.

According to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), spending on nondefense, discretionary spending, including spending on education, is expected to be cut by nearly 8 percent. Based on the $45.39 billion in discretionary funding the U.S. Department of Education received in Fiscal Year 2011, federal spending on education would be reduced by $3.54 billion.  [Added note:  discretionary spending total excludes Pell Grants.]

The Committee for Education Funding (CEF), a coalition of ninety education associations and institutions, projects that the across-the-board cuts would cut Title I by $1.1 billion; special education by $978 million; and career, technical, and adult education by $136 million.

The article also notes that President Barack Obama has stated he will veto any effort to undo the automatic cuts.  The President views the cuts as a way to pressure Congress into reaching a compromise.

According to the Maryland State Department of Education’s  2009-2010 Fact Book, the State received $681.3 million in federal aid for Maryland’s public schools in FY 2009, constituting  5.91% of the total education budget of $11.5 billion.  Because of Maryland’s close proximity to Washington DC and substantial military presence, the State will likely be disproportionately impacted if the mandatory cuts take effect.

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