UPDATE: 4:00 p.m. Feb. 27:
Now, it gets real.
District 196 administrators have known for months that a "sequestration" of federal money was a possibility—and that it could cost local schools hundreds of thousands in support for educational programs aimed at the low-income and disabled.
Today, they'll find out whether the threat is a reality, and begin to learn just how much of a problem that will be.
If the president and Congress can’t strike a deal today, a series of mandated federal budget cuts would automatically kick in.
The precise percentage of cuts isn't yet known; three months ago, state education officials estimated that about 8 percent of the district's funds for federal title programs could be eliminated. That would result in a loss of more than $600,000 for the fiscal year beginning this July, said Jeff Solomon, the district's director of finance and operations.
Those cuts could affect a wide variety of programs: Title 1 for low-income students and families, Title 2-supported teacher-quality programs and Title 3 disability education grants, as well as career and tech-ed programs.
But "that’s all based on information of people’s understanding of this issue three months ago," Solomon noted. The true size of the sequestration, as well as the question of whether state money can make up for some of the shortfall, is not yet known.
What happens if District 196 really does lose upwards of $600,000?
"That’s a good question," Solomon said. "That would be posed to the board," which is now building a budget for the next fiscal year. Whatever happens with the sequestration "will be one of the assumptions" on which the budget is based.
UPDATE: 5:30 p.m. Feb. 26:
Anna Wills, the GOP legislator representing Apple Valley, said Tuesday that the state's education-finance committee is studying whether the state can make up for any loss in education funds expected to occur if sequestration goes into effect Friday.
If the president and Congress can’t strike a deal by Friday, a series of mandated federal budget cuts would automatically kick in. That would force more than a million federal employees to take unpaid leave, according to the Washington Post.
Because the sequestration cuts are "across the board," with no particular focus or target, "they're going to create major challenges" in Minneosta, especially for education, Wills said.
Minnesota schools are looking at a 5.3 percent cut in federal funding, particularly in Title 1 funding, on which District 196 is heavily reliant, added Wills, who sits on the education-finance committee. (Title 1 provides supplemental funding to schools with large concentrations of low-income students.)
The numbers are still new, so the committee "hasn't been able to delve into how that’s going to impact our state budget," Wills said. But the committee will be looking into "how we can make up those differences at the state level," or whether the state will just have to say "sorry" to local school districts.
If a deal isn’t struck by Friday between President Obama and Congress, a "sequester" will begin that will auto-start a series of mandated federal budget cuts that would quickly be felt across the Midwest.
Here’s a sample of what’s at risk:
Hundreds of teaching jobs. Thousands of children dropped from early childhood education. Elimination of work-study jobs that support thousands of low-income college students getting a degree. The loss of childcare for thousands of disadvantaged kids. Furloughs for thousands of civilian Defense Department employees.
Representative John Kline, a Republican representing Minnesota's Second District (including Apple Valley and Rosemount), released this statement via spokesperson to the Minneapolis Star Tribune earlier this month:
“Washington is addicted to spending and no federal agency should be immune to serious budget cuts which is why Congressman Kline supported the national defense bill in December cutting $500 billion from Defense. But arbitrarily cutting another $500 billion through sequestration rather than a thoughtful, surgical approach would have dire consequences for our military, veterans, and national security, let alone how it will sap hundreds of millions of dollars from Minnesota’s economy. The House has twice passed legislation to replace the sequester with commonsense reform that would significantly reduce spending and preserve and protect our safety net for future generations.”
The scope of the sequester, a plan to trim the budget by $1.2 trillion over the next decade, was mandated as part of a 2011 law. If a deal isn’t reached by Friday, $85 billion in cuts will sweep across federal agencies between March and September. The sequester includes cuts of 8 percent to the Pentagon budget and 5 percent to domestic agency operating budgets.
Nationally, here’s what a Time report suggests will happen if the sequester begins:
Picture air travel snarled. Meat inspections curtailed. National security imperiled. Seventy thousand children booted from Head Start programs, 10,000 teaching jobs jeopardized, disability payments delayed, aid withheld from needy Americans and foreign governments perched on the brink of chaos. Hundreds of thousands of jobs could be lost, and the fragile economy knocked into a tailspin.
The White House released fact sheets for each state detailing the impact of the sequester.
Teachers and Schools:
- Minnesota will lose about $7 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 100 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition about 8,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 40 fewer schools would receive funding.
Education for Children with Disabilities:
- Minnesota will lose approximately $9.2 million in funds for about 110 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.
- Minnesota: Around 920 fewer low income students in Minnesota would receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and around 500 fewer students will get work-study jobs that help them pay for college.
- Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 700 children in Minnesota, reducing access to critical early education.
Protections for Clean Air and Clean Water:
- Minnesota would lose about $3 million in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, Minnesota could lose another $1.6 million in grants for fish and wildlife protection.
In Minnesota, approximately 2,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $12.5 million in total.
- Army: Base operation funding would be cut by about $2.5 million in Minnesota.
- Navy: A scheduled Blue Angels show in St. Cloud could be canceled.
Law Enforcement and Public Safety Funds for Crime Prevention and Prosecution:
- Minnesota will lose about $201,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.
Job Search Assistance:
- Minnesota will lose about $689,000 in funding for job search assistance, referral, and placement, meaning around 23,270 fewer people will get the help and skills they need to find employment.
- Minnesota: Up to 500 disadvantaged and vulnerable children could lose access to child care, which is also essential for working parents to hold down a job.
Vaccines for Children:
- In Minnesota about 2,360 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B due to reduced funding for vaccinations of about $161,000.
- Minnesota will lose approximately $507,000 in funds to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events. In addition, Minnesota will lose about $1.2 million in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 1,700 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. And the Minnesota Department of Health will lose about $127,000 resulting in around 3,200 fewer HIV tests.
STOP Violence Against Women Program:
- Minnesota could lose up to $113,000 in funds that provide services to victims of domestic violence, resulting in up to 400 fewer victims being served.
Nutrition Assistance for Seniors:
- Minnesota would lose approximately $845,000 in funds that provide meals for seniors.