Fast-Approaching Fiscal Cliff Alarms Parents, Educators

By Michele Molnar — November 15, 2012 2 min read
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As news reports highlight the looming “fiscal cliff” at the federal level, parents may be scratching their heads wondering what it means for them, and their children.

For public schools, the question is more than a matinee cliffhanger.

The cliff was created when Congress and the President struck a stormy deal about the federal debt ceiling last summer, starting the clock ticking on automatic budget cuts that would take effect on January 2, 2013 if no further action is taken to derail them.

The U.S. Department of Education is one of the agencies on the chopping block. Federal education programs face cutbacks of 8.2 percent or more, according to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. The only way to avoid the cuts would be if Congress acts to cancel them.

The cuts would occur through a process called sequestration, defined as the automatic, across-the-board cancellation of budgetary resources. If the cuts occur, they would impact the 2013-14 school year.

In “Fiscal Cliff Cheat Sheet: 10 Frequently Asked Questions,” Education Week’s Politics K-12 blogger Alyson Klein explains the background, and prospects, for this fiscal nail-biter.

President Obama gave some hope to those worried about the impact of automatic cuts in education during a news conference on Nov. 14.

In the meantime, organizations are ramping up their PR campaigns to make families aware of this high stakes standoff, which is occurring just as the nation prepares for Thanksgiving and the December holidays.

The National School Boards Association is circling the proverbial wagons by asking school boards to take action for the cause of preventing the automatic cuts known as sequestration.

The National Education Association is asking educators and friends of public education to take the “Kids Not Cuts” pledge—to promise to speak up for America’s students and working families, and to make sure Congress “makes the right choices,” according to the NEA website. “For education alone, services to over 9 million students and nearly 80,000 education jobs are at stake,” the NEA says on its site.

Over at the New York City Public School Parents blog, four suggestions are offered for cuts of more than $2 billion to the Education Department’s discretionary grant programs, including the Teacher Incentive Fund, the i3 grants, Race to the Top grants, and the School Improvement Grant program. Interested? Read, “What should be done instead of pushing our kids off the fiscal cliff?”

The K-12 News Network published an item called “Fiscal Showdown & Reduced Federal Spending on Education? We Say Kids, Not Cuts,” explaining how the current cliff-like climate is a throwback to California’s similar circumstances earlier this year. In the Golden State, automatic cuts were averted thanks to voters’ approval earlier this month.

Are parents in your area organizing to make their voices heard about the potential impact of the fiscal cliff on their local schools? Let us hear from you.

A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.