Arne Duncan on Sequestration

Posted on August 8, 2012

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Many of you by now have heard all about sequestration and the potential, impending double whammy that could severely damage the American economy and potentially decimate the education sector.

For those of you concerned, you’re not alone. Yesterday, July 25th, Education Secretary Arne Duncan testified before the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee. He expressed concern over “the potential devastating impact of sequestration.” You can watch the video here. Secretary Duncan’s testimony begins at around minute 30.

While I, like many Americans, agree that reducing government spending is crucial to restoring economic health, I have trouble getting behind a measure that blindly cuts funding across the board—effective and ineffective programs alike. Sequestration, as it is currently designed, seems like panic legislation.

As Secretary Duncan puts it, “we’re playing chicken with the lives of the American people—our schools, communities, small businesses, farms, public safety, infrastructure and national security.”

As part of his testimony, Duncan outlined some of the major deficits that sequestration would impose on American education:

  • Title I funding would be cut by $1.1 billion, cutting off funding to more than 4,000 schools serving an estimated 1.8 million disadvantaged students. The jobs of more than 15,000 teachers and teacher aides would be at risk. Students would lose access to individual instruction, afterschool programs, and other interventions that help close achievement gaps.
  • Funding for special education would be reduced by $900 million. That could translate into the layoffs of more than 10,000 teachers, aides, and other staff who provide essential instruction and other support to 6.6 million children with disabilities in every one of your states.
  • On January 2nd, schools serving our military families through the Impact Aid program would have immediate cuts to their budgets. For example, the Killeen Independent School District in Texas would lose $4.6 million – directly affecting 18,000 children from military families. Military families make so many sacrifices for our country. Their children deserve a world-class education.
  • In higher education, the Department would need to slash spending on contracts to support the processing and origination of student loans, which could cause delays that will hurt students as they make decisions about college and could reduce services for borrowers seeking to repay their loans.

In addition to these cuts at our Department of Education, other agencies will have to be forced to reduce spending in ways that will slow our nation’s educational progress.

  • Up to almost 100,000 low-income children would be denied access to the Head Start program, which is critical to preparing them for success in kindergarten and beyond.
  • 80,000 children would lose access to high-quality care through the Child Care Development Block Grant.
  • The National Institutes of Health would issue 700 fewer grants to medical researchers, slowing progress in the search for treatments and cures to cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases in research labs at hospitals and universities across the country. Up to 1,500 grants would be cut from the National Science Foundation.

Sequestration will do more than simply limit funds. It will set education back years. I agree with Duncan: we’ve worked too hard and come too far to become a political sacrifice.

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