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'Fiscal cliff': With cuts of $4 billion looming, educators sound alarm

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According to Secretary Duncan, some examples of what the cuts would mean:

  • At least $1.1 billion of Title I funding would be lost, affecting approximately 1.8 million disadvantaged students.
  • Special-education funding would be cut by $900 million.
  • About 100,000 low-income children would not have access to early education through Head Start.

At least 48,000 jobs could be lost because of such cuts, according to an October analysis by House Democrats.

Most of the impact wouldn’t be felt in schools until the beginning of the next school year, since funding for this year has already been distributed. However, because of the way some funding is structured, school districts with high numbers of military children and American Indian students would face cuts immediately in January.

School administrators have been actively lobbying on Capitol Hill for a solution that would preserve education funding.

Because the districts with more low-income children rely more heavily on federal education dollars, the across-the-board sequestration cuts “would make the gap wider between the haves and the have-nots,” says Daniel Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA). 

About 57 percent of districts say they’d have to cut jobs, and 55 to 70 percent would have to increase class sizes, cut academic programs, and trim staff development if dealing with the federal cuts, according to an AASA survey earlier this year.

One administrator from Georgia noted in the AASA survey that at stake is a six-year effort in that person’s district to narrow achievement gaps and bring graduation rates up 35 percent among students who are mostly low-income. “Our students and teachers are beginning to believe we can achieve at a high level; however, my greatest fear is that with these additional funding cuts our supports will disappear,” wrote the administrator, who was not named. “It will take more time and consistent resources to break the generational cycle of poverty and low academic expectations in our community.”

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