Unions: As Supercommittee Fails, Schools Face Deep Cuts

Teachers unions say that the Supercommittee failure to reach an agreement means severe education cuts are a possibility.

As the deficit-cutting supercommittee fails to come to any agreement, Congress’ emergency backup budget-cutting plan is to go ahead, meaning across-the-board spending reductions of roughly $1 trillion from military and domestic government programs, as reported by the Associated Press.

The tough federal reductions that are to be triggered by Monday’s supercommittee collapse aren’t due to kick in until after the election in January 2013, giving lawmakers time to try and rework the cuts or even work with an entirely new government.

Many are worried about the severity of the cuts after this frustrating breakdown of supercommittee talks, with teachers union officials predicting difficult consequences for schools, writes Willam Selway at Bloomberg Businessweek.

“The absence of a deficit deal will lead to drastic across-the-board cuts to vital programs that help our students,” Randi Weingarten, president of the Washington-based American Federation of Teachers, said yesterday in a statement.

“The Congressional Budget Office projects that education will suffer a 7.8 percent cut, forcing massive reductions to education programs for our most disadvantaged students and those with disabilities.”

These cutbacks will translate into costing more than 300,000 jobs in education, Weingarten said.

Cuts triggered by the stalemate would take about $11 billion out of state aid in fiscal 2013, which begins in October, or a 6.1 percent reduction from estimated current levels, affecting such areas as education, housing, urban development, public safety and some transit services, according to an analysis by Howard’s group.

Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, said in a government press release:

“I join the President in his disappointment that the supercommittee has failed to reach a final deal. We must reduce America’s debt. But we must do so in a thoughtful and deliberate way that protects national priorities like education at such a critical time. Because the supercommittee failed to live up to its responsibility, education programs that affect young Americans across the country now face across-the-board cuts.”

Michael Bird, a Washington lobbyist for the legislatures group, said protections for some programs provide scant solace.

“States get saved on the Medicaid side while they get punched in the face on education, transportation, energy, environment, labor and all the other programs,” he said.

Duncan is adamant that the government’s continuing priority is to ensure that every child has access to a good teacher and a high quality public education.

“That requires Congress to do some important work in the coming weeks and to show some real leadership. I stand ready to work with them, and I know the President does as well.”

Sunday

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