Education Funding

Study Eyes a Few Line-Item Damages of Sequestration, Including K-12

By Andrew Ujifusa — June 13, 2013 2 min read
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Several months after it officially kicked in, sequestration is far from the hottest story coming out of Washington. Naturally enough, reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is getting lots of attention, even if final passage of an actual bill seems pretty remote. But sequestration hasn’t simply dissipated into thin air. In fact, a new paper from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released yesterday tries to show exactly how the impact of the “automatic” budget cuts has played out on a state-by-state basis.

Secretary Arne Duncan tried to attach a number to this back when he claimed up to 40,000 teacher jobs could be jeopardized by sequestration, but that number was quickly called into question. Remember, much of the immediate impact on sequestration has been on the $1 billion Impact Aid, which is targeted largely at schools with large populations of Native American students, and children from military families. And the cuts also forced a reduction in the number of national tests in civics, history, and geography administered by the National Center for Education Statistics.

But what does EPI say it has found? Let’s look at some of the big-ticket items. Report author Rebecca Thiess says that California’s Title I funding from the federal government, which is directed at students in high-poverty areas, was slashed by $83.3 million (ultimately of course that money is passed through to local education agencies). A spreadsheet from the California Department of Education shows that for the 2012-13 budget year, total Title I spending totaled just short of $1.6 billion, meaning that that the reduction represents about 5 percent of the feds’ Title I aid to California, which matches the general statistical impact of sequestration across the board.

Remember though that, as my colleague Alyson Klein has repeatedly pointed out, actual sequestration-based cuts to Title I and other education programs won’t be made and felt for the most part until the 2013-14 school year.

In Texas, Head Start funding is headed for a $28.2 million plunge. As my colleague Christina Samuels wrote about in detail, Head Start cuts triggered by sequestration takes funding back to the 2008 level of $7.6 billion, and the feds have said the cuts will mean a loss of 70,000 spots in Head Start “slots” for children. And also in California, in an area not as directly related to K-12 services, there’s a $58.2 million cut from Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) grants that provide food and other nutritional services.

More broadly, the report states that of the $85 billion cut in federal spending through sequestration in fiscal 2013, $5.1 billion came through reductions in federal grants to states, including for Title I and a vast array of other education and non-education funding. And if you’re interested, Thiess’ report details the hardest-hit states in terms of sequestration cuts to state grants relative to prior budget levels—Wyoming is the hardest hit, followed by fellow western states like Utah, North Dakota, Montana, and South Dakota. Louisiana, meanwhile, lost the most in federal grant funding in fiscal 2013 relative to fiscal 2012 through sequestration.

As the 2013-14 school year approaches and commences, you’ll probably be seeing more of these types of reports providing more details about specific education programs and grants, and exactly how much pain sequestration’s budget ax is inflicting.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.