Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Coming March 27 To A School Near You: Education's Next Federal Budget Crisis

StateImpact Illustration / Getty Images photos from Mark Wilson (left) & Chip Somodevilla (right)

President Barack Obama and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner are here depicted as sad.

For those of you sick of supercommittees, debt ceilings, fiscal cliffs and sequesters, we have just the cure for your federal budget crisis-itis: Another federal budget crisis.

Just when you thought the sky had already fallen, Slate’s Matthew Yglesias is here to tell you it’s actually, actually falling on March 27.

Why? Budget cuts mean little when, in less than a month, you won’t have a budget. On March 27, the federal budget expires and money for most federal programs — including every education program — stops flowing.

Yglesias explains:

This is by far the most boring budget crisis of the Obama years… because the sequester doesn’t really matter…

On March 27 the Continuing Resolution that funds the overall discretionary operations of the federal government runs out.

When that happens, it’s lights out—quite literally. There are some exceptions for emergency personnel and entitlement programs (think Medicare) keep functioning, but when the CR expires, the government shuts down. All “non-essential” federal employees are put on furlough, and programs simply stop functioning.

And it’s “lights out” for education, too. The New America Foundation’s Jason Delisle expounds at Ed Money Watch:

After [March 27] the funding level is zero until Congress passes an appropriations bill for the remaining six months of fiscal year 2013 (which, incidentally, is when the bulk of an annual education appropriation is actually spent). Yes, the sequester will cut education programs by 5.1 percent on March 1, but what matters is the funding level Congress and the president set for programs as of March 27.

As we’ve reported, no Indiana district was looking forward to the March 1 automatic budget cuts — cuts that are part of a law Congress passed and President Obama signed — but few would lose more than a sliver of their overall revenues.

But it’s harder to downplay the sequester’s impact federally-funded pre-K programs.

We’ve noted Indiana Head Start services won’t disappear overnight, but the lost funding might be enough to force some programs to wrap up their programming a month earlier — in April rather than in May — this year. The cuts could also mean the loss of Head Start programming in some smaller communities.

Yglesias says Republicans are still smarting from the January 1 fiscal cliff debate with the Obama administration:

The bad news is that this means the odds of a government shutdown are pretty high. The good news is that the tough negotiations that’ll be needed to either avert or else end a government shutdown provide ample opportunity to resolve the problems associated with the sequester.




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