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Education, Public Safety, Health Advocates Fight Sequester Cuts

Education advocates continue to see the next few weeks as a crucial crunch-time when it comes to putting an end to the 5 percent sequestration cuts. Those cuts hit not just K-12, but a range of other domestic programs, including public safety, health, and energy. As a bipartisan panel of lawmakers works on a long-term spending plan, due next month, dozens of advocacy groups representing those interests are working together to keep the cuts front and center in lawmaker's minds.

They've even got a catchy name—Nondefense Discretionary United—as well as a report, entitled "Faces of Austerity," showing the impact of sequestration on domestic programs.

Some examples of education cuts highlighed in the report:

  • Head Start programs have cut staff and are serving fewer kids
  • Districts that receive federal Impact Aid (meant to make up for tax revenue lost because of a federal presence) have cut positions and frozen salaries
  • Rural TRIO (college access) programs have shrunk

Some interesting examples of non-education cuts, that could still impact kids and communities:

  • Cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration means the nation may not see weather events coming and be able to get prepared for them
  • Less research into diseases and disorders like autism and lead poisoning, which can impact kids' ability to learn
  • Diminished investment in juvenile justice programs

Does the report give an accurate picture when it comes to K-12? It's tough to say. Sequestration's impact on schools has been slow-moving, uneven, and tough to quantify, in part because many states were able to make up for the cuts thanks to brightening local revenues. But if sequestration stays in place for a decade—as it's currently slated to, unless Congress acts—the cuts could get much worse.

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