The Sequester's Devastating Cuts To Education
The sequester kicked in on March 1, 2013, with over $5 billion in spending cutsin multiple areas of federal spending, including defense, air travel, national parks and the FBI. But cuts to one area of spending in particular are a cause for major concern: the cuts to federal spending on education.
The federal government plans to cut $87.6 million from primary and secondary schools in California alone. These cuts could potentially put 10,000 teaching jobs at risk and reduce funding for 7,200 teaching and staffing jobs in special education. The potential loss of over 10,000 teaching positions would jeopardize thousands of students. Of the $87.6 million in cuts in California, students with disabilities would lose $62.9 million, while 9,600 students in low-income communities would lose financial aid. The loss of financial aid, which is distributed through local districts, could result in the displacement of 70,000 students from vital early and continuing education programs, includingJumpstart, which services preschool children across the nation. Such federally funded programs are designed to provide educational outreach and resources to disadvantage communities nationwide, and the loss of funding for these programs would negatively impact students and communities throughout the United States.
The National Education Association (NEA) assessed the effects of the sequester's education cuts on a number of states in the country. The NEA makes it clear that the number of students impacted by the education cuts will be well over one million. The organization also makes it clear that education cuts will not only impact students at the primary and secondary levels of education. College students throughout the nation will also be affected by the sequester. First of all, programs that provide information and access to various resources to young students regarding their path to higher education will face cuts. Second of all, work-study grants in many states will not be offered during this upcoming academic year. These jobs, which help pay for tuition, will not be replaced. For some low-income students, the loss of the opportunities provided by work-study grants could lead to a halt in their educations. In Illinois, over 39,000 students will be affected by the revoking of 32,000 work-study grants. In New York, over 94,000 students will be affected by education cuts, and 163,000 students will be affected by the revoking of federal education grants, including work-study. Third of all, students with college loans could face increases in fees and decreases in available loans to complete their academic programs.
All of these cuts to education come at a time when, as the Huffington Post reports, America needs at least $542 billion to modernize all of its schools. Throughout the country, district schools are dealing with the need to improve their buildings, which have been untouched for decades. Some states are facing the harsh reality of the possibility of consolidating their schools. In Chicago, for example, there are plans to consolidate approximately 80 schools, which would create potential setbacks for Chicago's students at a time of heightened violence - weekly shootings in some of Chicago’s inner-city neighborhoods. Resources for schools, for teachers and for students are all being limited at a time when they need instead to be expanded, not only to provide opportunities for America's youth to succeed, but also to provide a means for America to succeed in the world.
If America is to compete on a global economic scale with other countries like China, Germany and Hong Kong, its citizens must be well-educated, prepared to excel in a world of new technology. Right now, the U.S. lies far below its foreign competitors in terms of math, science and reading: the U.S. ranks 25th among 49 countries in math, 17th in science and 14th in reading. Cutting spending to education when the U.S. is already behind can only slow America’s future economic possibilities. The U.S. has reached a tipping point in terms of the education of its youth, and now faces a disaster that could have been averted had the government considered and acted on alternatives. The government has demonstrated that it would rather than yank the ground from beneath the feet of its people, and simultaneously risk America's future prosperity, than, for example, raise taxes on the richest Americans.
Over the past few weeks, no member of either political party has yet taken blame for the avoidable sequester. Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that Obama was “berating Republicans,” while Obama insisted that the Republicans' refusal to negotiate was to blame. Regardless of whose responsibility the enactment of the sequester actually is, every single politician in Washington should be focused on the individuals in America who will be impacted by the cuts. After all, at the heart of any country is its people. At the moment, though, the people don't seem to be on our politicians' minds.
Yet, all hope for the future is not lost. As Americans brace themselves, with little understanding of the impact, for education cuts and the other cuts the sequester will bring, some people may feel like they are “Waiting for Superman.” But maybe we can't wait for the government to act; maybe we must find ways to transform America's education system ourselves. Our lives are being placed in the hands of individuals who, through consistent action, have shown their relentless ability to discount their consituents' needs, to refuse accountability for the well-being of America's youth. And that clearly isn't working. Ultimately, we need to decide whether or not we think we can ever get the government to allocate less money to protecting themselves and America's wealthy, and more money to bolstering America's people.
Check out this documentary about the spending cuts and their impact on economic barriers faced throughout the nation.
Learn more about state-by-state sequester cuts here.