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Countdown to sequestration

Cynthia E. Griffin | 2/27/2013, 5 p.m.

Should the United States Congress fail to enact legislation that will trim the national budget by Friday, $85 billion in automatic spending cuts will go into effect.

Known as sequestration, these cuts are, according to the Congressional Research Service, largely across-the-board spending reductions that will impact most programs within the federal budget.
However, it is important to note that there is no current federal budget. Instead, the country's fiscal house is running on a continuing resolution that funds programs at the previous budget's rate.

The senate is expected to vote today on S.388, a measure authored by Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, (D-Maryland), that would appropriately limit sequestration, and eliminate tax loopholes among other actions.

"This faux crisis will throw cold water on our fragile economy and devastate America's children and families. Taking an ax to investments in our children, our economic recovery, and our communities is irresponsible and dangerous," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teacher (AFT).

. . . "America's educators, frontline health professionals and public employees work every day to make a difference in the lives of the children and families they serve--and these public servants already have been forced to stretch resources to their breaking point and make sacrifices to ensure they are able to serve their communities. We cannot cut our way to prosperity, and we cannot continue to inflict pain on children and families and on those who educate, heal and nurture them."

Weingarten continues, "Congress must live up to its responsibility to the American people, put a stop to this endless charade of manufactured crises, and start investing in building a brighter future for all who call America home. Congress should act immediately on the balanced approach put forth by Sens. Harry Reid and Patty Murray that would stop these dangerous cuts and instead invest in our children and communities by closing tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans and big corporations, and by asking millionaires to pay a little more to protect our children and America's future."

On a national basis, the potential impacts could include:
* Eliminating Title I education funds for more than 2,700 schools, which means cutting support for nearly 1.2 million disadvantaged students. This funding reduction would put the jobs of approximately 10,000 teachers and aides at risk. Students would lose access to individual instruction, after-school programs, and other interventions that help close achievement gaps.

* Cuts to special education funding would eliminate federal support for more than 7,200 teachers, aides, and other staff who provide essential instruction and support to preschool and K-12 students with disabilities.

* Because of cuts to Head Start community and faith-based organizations, small businesses, local governments and school systems would have to lay off more than 14,000 teachers, teacher assistants and other staff.

* Up to 373,000 seriously mentally ill adults and seriously emotionally disturbed children could go untreated.

* Cuts to higher education: $49 million would be cut from the federal work-study program, which would affect 33,000 students; and $37 million would be cut from the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants Program making it harder for 71,000 students to afford college.