Plummer Worley school district superintendent makes statement on sequestration | Schools
Below is a statement from the Plummer Worley School District superintendent:
If Congress doesn’t act in the next week, America will be faced with debilitating cuts to nearly every non-defense discretionary program at the federal level. But these cuts are not sequestered to the federal level alone – they will cut into everything we do in our county, city and school district.
At a Valentine’s Day Senate Appropriations hearing on the “impacts of the sequestration,” Congress considered just what kind of “love note” they would like to extend to the American people.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified at that meeting and here’s what he said about the federal Impact Aid Program – a program that helps educate more than 400 students in our area:
“The across-the-board nature of the cuts would focus an ill-advised reduction on our grant programs and the funds we need to administer them,” referring to federally connected schools. His testimony referred to two of several schools that could face over $1 million cuts to Impact Aid because of sequestration. Later in the hearing, Duncan said “we would have to cut this money [Impact Aid] right away. We disproportionately fund those areas because there’s a lack of property taxes.”
Because Impact Aid, a federal program that provides an “in-lieu of tax” payment to school districts impacted by a federal presence, is the ONLY federal education program that is current-year-funded (meaning the funds authorized by Congress in one year are for the same school year), federally impacted schools will feel the cuts the day sequestration takes effect - March 1, 2013 - should the U.S. Congress fail to find an alternative deficit-reduction solution. And we’re not talking peanuts here. Should Congress allow sequestration to trigger, federally impacted schools would see an immediate cut of up to 5.3-percent across-the-board. That equates to about $70 million less for federally impacted schools nationwide!
The Plummer Worley School District is about 25% federally impacted and received over $1,000,000 in Impact Aid during the last school year. A 5.3-percent cut would mean we would have $53,000 less with which to operate our district from Impact Aid money. All of this in the middle of the year. If we count the effect on all federal programs within the district including Special Education and Title 1, the amount lost rises to over $80,000.
And it’s not just money we worry about. It’s jobs. If sequestration occurs, our school district could see staff layoffs, the end to after-school programs, extra-curriculars, and bus routes.
Impact Aid helps fund school districts nationwide affected by Indian Reservations, federal buildings, low-rent housing facilities, National Parks and other federal entities. More than 1,300 school districts receive Impact Aid and it affects more than 11 million school children each year. Because they are in-lieu of local tax revenue, Impact Aid funds are “unrestricted,” meaning they can be used in a school district in virtually unlimited ways – helping to pay for added technology, special education services, teacher salaries, maintenance and facilities– all of which help students learn better and more efficiently in their school setting.
Sequestration should be avoided altogether for a balanced approach to deficit reduction. Why?
1) Impact Aid is not a money drain – it’s an investment in our future. We should never forget that by cutting education spending, we are putting the future of our children and our country at risk. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, the United States spends only 5.3-percent of its gross domestic product on education – ranking 54th out of 182 countries surveyed. Cutting Impact Aid and education even further will not secure our children’s futures, but guarantee that our country will continue to edge even further down the education ladder. That’s not right.
2) Impact Aid is a federal partnership with localities, and cutting or eliminating portions of it would create an undue burden on local taxpayers. Congress recognized this fact way back in 1950 when they created Impact Aid. They said, “. . . without continued federal help, more than 1.8 million children in these federally impacted areas would not receive normal school service. . . The U.S. has become an industrialist, landlord, or a businessman in many communities.” However, since the land is tax exempt, the federal government has not accepted “the responsibility of the normal citizen in a community” to meet its financial obligation to support public schools. By cutting Impact Aid, Congress is shirking its responsibility and shifting school funding responsibilities onto local taxpayers to the tune of $70 million. That’s not fair.
The Plummer Worley School District urges you to speak out and advocate on behalf of all federally impacted schools in this country.
If Congress doesn’t act – on March 1, 2013, what is not right, not fair and inconceivable will become inevitable.