The word "sequester" has been thrown around for months, but although many understand that this means the government will be forced to make a number of mandatory cuts unless parties come to an agreement over an alternative budget plan, few know exactly how those cuts will impact them and their families.
Now U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hopes to correct that by condemning the impact sequestration is likely to have on the nation's school systems. Speaking last week, Duncan said that unless sequestration is avoided, as many as 40,000 teachers around the country could be out of a job, and educational resources like the federally-funded Head Start program would have to shut down for lack of money.
Also impacted will be efforts like those aimed at helping students whose parents are in the military. He said schools around the country were already notifying instructors that they could be out of a job as early as next week.
"We don't have any ability with dumb cuts like this to figure out what the right thing to do is," Duncan said. "It just means a lot more children will not get the kinds of opportunities and services they need."
Only days remain before sequestration is scheduled — unless a last-minute compromise is found, the cuts will be put into effect on Friday of this week. The sequester is an unfortunate side-effect of the battle over the nation's debt ceiling last year when both parties agreed to mandatory cuts unless a bipartisan Congressional super-committee hammered out an alternative budget that would reduce the budget deficit and the national debt. The super-committee adjourned without releasing a mutually agreeable plan.
Duncan has joined other members of the Obama administration, like Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in trying to point out the real-world implications for the sequester, which is scheduled to go into effect on Friday.
The Education secretary added that the debate over sequestration is taking away from what could be more fruitful discussions over how to limit gun violence.
Duncan added that in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, lawmakers should be focusing on efforts to reduce gun violence rather than waste time unproductively bickering over which party is more to blame for creating the sequestration situation. He called sequester a "stupid" issue and said that the continuing hubbub on the Hill over it just "doesn't make sense."