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Senate to Administration: Give Us Details On Planned Education Cuts

Want to know how the series of planned cuts—known in Inside-the-Washington-Beltway-speak as "sequestration"—will impact education programs? So do members of Congress, even though they were the ones that came up with the plan.

In fact, a bipartisan pair of lawmakers, U.S. Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and John McCain, R-Ariz., championed a measure that would require the White House Office of Management of Budget to provide a detailed account of just what the cuts would mean for all sorts of federal programs, from Head Start to Title I grants for districts to defense spending.

The provision was approved with broad support as an amendment to the farm bill, which is one of the very few pieces of substantial legislation actually moving through Congress. It will require OMB to give an accounting of teacher job losses, the number of students shut out of education programs, and education resources lost to states and districts.

The administration would have to get Congress a detailed accounting of the policies and programs affected by sequestration within 60 days of the law's passage.

Some background: So just what is sequestration? As part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling last summer, lawmakers agreed that if they couldn't come up with a deal to cut the deficit, there would be automatic spending cuts, which would hit both defense and domestic programs, and would go into effect in January of 2013, unless Brokedown Congress can find a way to stop it. Sequestration was set up to be so bad that it wouldn't happen, but stopping it requires lawmakers to come up with some kind of a grand compromise on taxes and spending, which so far has been elusive.

The cuts could be as high as 9.1 percent and would impact almost every education program (one exception: Pell Grants, which would be spared).

So far, no one has spelled out exactly what the cuts would mean for each and every program, which makes it harder for lawmakers—and the public—to really prepare for them. Initally, McCain introduced an amendment seeking a detailed report on the impact of sequestration on defense. Murray countered with a provision asking for the impact on everything. Then they collaborated on this language.

Education advocates were very supportive of the amendment. Check out this letter from the National PTA and this one from the Committee for Education Funding, which represents pretty much every education association under the sun.

Meanwhile, even though sequestration remains a big question mark, some state education agencies are beginning to warn their districts to prepare for it. Missouri's department of education has a whole webpage on it, which you can check out here.

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