Concerns about federal education funding took the spotlight again last week, amid a new, Republican-backed budget blueprint for fiscal 2013 and fresh jitters over the impact of automatic spending cuts that loom as a result of last year’s federal budget deal.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned members of the House subcommittee that oversees education spending of dire ramifications if the budget plan put forth by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., were to become law.
“Passage of the Ryan budget would propel the educational success of this country backwards for years to come, and that is a risk we cannot afford to take,” Mr. Duncan said in remarks prepared for testimony last week.
The Ryan blueprint—given little to no chance of passing in the Democratic-controlled Senate—doesn’t actually propose specific cuts for K-12 education. But it does seek to significantly curtail domestic spending. Mr. Duncan’s estimates were based on an 18 percent cut to education funding the department projects for 2014.
To put the cuts in perspective, Mr. Duncan said the $14.5 billion Title I program, which helps districts cover the cost of educating disadvantaged students, could see a $2.7 billion cut. As many as 38,000 teachers’ aides could lose their jobs, he said. And funding for children with disabilities could be cut by more than $2.2 billion, meaning that 30,000 special education teachers, teachers’ aides, and others could be cut. Special education state grants are funded at $11.6 billion this year.
Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of school districts indicated in a survey that they won’t be able to absorb a big, blunt federal cut headed their way if Congress can’t reach a deal on long-term spending by January. The American Association of School Administrators surveyed 528 school administrators from 48 states.
The planned across-the-board cut to all federal programs of 7.8 percent to 9.1 percent would stem from a deal last summer to raise the debt ceiling. The cuts would hit just about every federal education program, including Title I grants to districts, state grants for special education, and the School Improvement Grants.
A version of this article appeared in the March 28, 2012 edition of Education Week as Warnings Sounded on Separate Fronts Over K-12 Funding