Here are some facts about how public schools across the country could be affected if President Obama and Congress don’t reach some agreement on solving the nation’s debt problem by Jan. 1 and the country goes over “the fiscal cliff” and “sequestration” takes effect.
What, exactly, does that mean? It means that in the absence of a timely compromise, automatic federal budget cuts totaling $1.2 trillion will start on Jan. 2, 2013, and end seven years later. The cuts will be divided evenly between defense spending (not including wars U.S. troops are fighting) and discretionary domestic spending, not including entitlements like Social Security and Medicaid, but affecting the Department of Education and other agencies. (If you want to know why this is happening, read this.)
Education programs now collectively make up less than 1 percent of the federal budget. Here are some things to know about how sequestration could affect public schools:
* Federal programs including Head Start and Title 1 — which provides aid to schools and districts with high percentages of children from disadvantaged families — will be affected immediately. Other programs are exempt from sequestration, such as federal Pell grants, which provide need-based funds to low-income families to pay college tuition, and child nutrition programs, including school lunch, school breakfast, child and adult care food and others. You can see other programs exempted from sequestration in this Congressional Research Service report.
* Most schools will really start to feel the cuts in 2013-14.