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The Debt Deal and Education Spending
posted by: Alix | August 04, 2011, 03:05 PM   

The debt ceiling debate has played out like a soap opera all summer long with the U.S. credit score hanging in the balance. After intense debate and uproar, emergency bipartisan legislation was enacted on Tuesday, mere hours before we were to hit a cap on our borrowing. With the reported apocalyptic economic downfall behind us, education stakeholders are now evaluating the new budget cap and its inevitable impact on federal K-12 spending.

As many have pointed out, all Congress has done thus far is impose a spending cap, no detailed spending cuts have been made available. Essentially, the entire budget has been slashed, leaving smaller slices of the pie for all government agencies– including the Department of Education. While we know that funds will be reduced, the specific impact on programs remains to be seen.

What the deal does do is create a new congressional committee charged with finding $1.5 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years across all government spending. Estimates suggest that the committee would seek cuts amounting to 6.7 percent in most agencies, which for the Department of Education would translate into roughly $3 billion. As a frame of reference, the projected 2012 federal education budget is $77 billion.

Congressional Democrats like Congressman George Miller (D-CA) warn the cuts will have a tremendous impact. In an interview this week he warned that the spending cuts are "going to make life much more difficult for" for public schools. However, a spokeswoman for Miller would not elaborate on exactly how these cuts will be felt.

While there is still a lot left to consider regarding cuts, education insiders warn that the biggest concern is the cap's impact on funneling money into the states for their own K-12 agendas. Over the last few years, the states have been pushing various ambitious reform agendas of their own. Often expensive, programs involving teacher evaluation, assessment, academic standards, and other areas often come via federal assistance. When the states are working with limited means of their own, experts argue that some of these reform ideas could be shelved due to funding.

AAE Executive Director Gary Beckner shared his thoughts about the budget cap today, releasing the following statement:

"While questions regarding the federal budget cap remain unanswered, there is no doubt that school systems on all levels will have to adjust to new budget realities. My hope is that the committees entrusted with making these cuts do so in a matter that increases efficiency and promotes commonsense reform.

While everyone wants to see educators paid fairly without the threat of layoffs, and schools funded appropriately, it's clear that government officials have had to make tough decisions with difficult budget realities. Hopefully the federal government and the states can find a healthy balance in the upcoming budget discussions."

What kind of effect do you think the spending cap will have on K-12 spending?

Comment below.

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