Education and the Fiscal Cliff

One of our Public Policy & Advocacy members recently received a notice from his state teacher union. Part of the notice read:
If sequestration occurs…it looks like Virginia schools would lose $69,002,000, with an impact on 114,030 students, and job losses totaling 1,317.
Teachers in Virginia and around the country are facing the potential of sequestration, or the taking of pay and benefits to offset budget shortfalls. These measures are now being associated with the “fiscal cliff,” the well-publicized automatic budget cuts that will take place at midnight on Dec 31 if Congress cannot reach an agreement on changes to federal spending and revenue. In one recent example from outside education, the Hostess Bakery ended its operations, declared bankruptcy, and has begun selling off its assets–including some $50 million in worker pensions and company-matched retirement funds. While it’s unlikely that our public schools are formally sold as liquid assets, the concerns raised by sequestration and budgetary concerns are real.
If you’re an educator who is nervous about sequestration, you have good reason. Education Week recently ran an article detailing the possible effects the fiscal cliff can have on teachers and students. Among other issues, they reported an 8.2% across-the-board cut in DoE funding should the fiscal cliff scenario play out. In part, this is expected to impact the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; NCLB and Race to the Top waivers; and perhaps funding for key programs like Title II grants or Head Start.
You can be a voice for yourself and your students. Talks are scheduled to begin again after the Thanksgiving holiday, perhaps running through Christmas. Urge your representatives in state and federal government to take action now to prevent these economic threats to public education (you can use the links at the bottom of this page). Use your voice!
Alexander “Sandy” Pope is a Ph.D. student in social studies education at Teachers College, Columbia University

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