Deficit Reduction Looms Over Education Spending What’s going to happen to education spending if federal lawmakers can’t agree on how to reduce the federal deficit? And what will the changes mean for school-based speech-language pathologists and audiologists? The Deficit Control Act, passed in the summer of 2011, calls for Congress and President Obama to agree to ... Policy Analysis
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Policy Analysis  |   July 01, 2012
Deficit Reduction Looms Over Education Spending
Author Notes
  • Neil Snyder, director of federal advocacy, can be reached at 800-498-2071, ext. 5614, or nsnyder@asha.org.
    Neil Snyder, director of federal advocacy, can be reached at 800-498-2071, ext. 5614, or nsnyder@asha.org.×
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Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / Policy Analysis
Policy Analysis   |   July 01, 2012
Deficit Reduction Looms Over Education Spending
The ASHA Leader, July 2012, Vol. 17, 14. doi:10.1044/leader.PA2.17092012.14
The ASHA Leader, July 2012, Vol. 17, 14. doi:10.1044/leader.PA2.17092012.14
What’s going to happen to education spending if federal lawmakers can’t agree on how to reduce the federal deficit? And what will the changes mean for school-based speech-language pathologists and audiologists?
The Deficit Control Act, passed in the summer of 2011, calls for Congress and President Obama to agree to actions to reduce the federal deficit. If they fail to reach an agreement, automatic spending cuts take effect on Jan. 2, 2013. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will issue guidelines that will cut fiscal year 2013 federal spending by 7.8%–14%.
This process—known as sequestration—will affect all federal spending programs.
How Much?
To date, OMB has not issued sequestration guidelines, although the White House will probably do so later this year, and no federal entity has issued an analysis of what the automatic cuts may look like. However, the National Education Association (NEA) has issued a document, “Impact of Sequestration, FY 2013, Federal Education-Related Discretionary Programs” (search “sequestration” at NEA’s website), that analyzes the effects of 7.8% cut (as suggested by the Congressional Budget Office), and of a 9.1% cut (as suggested by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a private-sector think tank).
In this analysis, for example, the NEA estimates a cut to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)—for fiscal year 2013 alone—of $986 million (7.8%) to $1.15 billion (9.1%) and a loss of 13,000 to 16,000 school employees, including SLPs and audiologists.
Timing
The timing of sequestration further complicates the effects of spending cuts. If it takes place, sequestration will occur at the beginning of a calendar year—but three months into the federal fiscal year, five months into the 2012–2013 school year, and eight months after most school districts have set their 2012–2013 budgets. Districts that have not planned for the possibility of sequestration could be forced to cut jobs, professional development, and purchasing, and increase class size in the middle of the year.
Another complicating factor is that IDEA is a forward-funded program—that is, some of the IDEA funds provided to states and school districts are designated for the current and next school years. OMB has offered no explanation of how sequestration will be applied, given that three months of the fiscal year will already have passed and the two pots of funds (current year and forward funding) that school districts use to fund special education.
Withheld Funds
States are preparing for the possibility of a sequester. The Texas Education Agency (TEA), for example, sent a letter on May 29 to all school districts in the state indicating that the TEA “will withhold 10% of the state’s expected appropriations from the LEA’s [local education agency’s] planning amount calculations.” TEA will release funds if deficit reduction legislation is passed and signed; if sequestration kicks in, it will release “maximum entitlements” based on the OMB’s determination of reductions.
Data from an American Association of School Administrators survey indicate that schools are taking several approaches to the possible loss of 9% of IDEA funds:
  • Wait to see if Congress avoids sequestration; if not, make changes as needed mid-year (45%).

  • Cut the overall school budget by 9% before the start of the 2012–2013 school year (25%).

  • Make a partial cut before the start of the 2012–2013 school year (10%).

  • Build a budget to incorporate the full cut in the middle of the 2012–2013 school year (10%).

  • Build a budget to incorporate a partial cut in the middle of the 2012–2013 school year (8%).

The survey also indicated that most administrators are anticipating that sequestration will translate into cuts in professional development (68%), academic programs (56.7%), and noninstructional (56.6%) and instructional (54.6%) personnel; increased class size (54.1%); and deferred technology purchases (52.8%).
Action on stopping, altering, or postponing sequestration is not expected until after the fall elections. Congress will then return into a lame-duck session, to resolve a number of unfinished items, including sequestration. The outcome of the presidential and congressional elections will have a tremendous impact on the final outcome for sequestration in 2013.
Sequestration: What Can You Do?

As part of the “Speak Out, Be Heard” advocacy program, ASHA has launched an effort to educate lawmakers on the effects of further cuts to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) on school districts and students across the country.

Because no congressional deficit-reduction actions will take place before November’s elections, ASHA public policy staff advise members to know how the congressional candidates stand on this issue—and to make sure the candidates understand the effects of sequestration on education programs, students, and jobs.

ASHA members can:

  • Visit ASHA’s Take Action site to send a letter to members of Congress and to congressional candidates urging them to make sure that children do not bear the country’s deficit-reduction burden.

  • Use ASHA’s toolkit to set up a summer meeting in their home districts. ASHA has designated the week of August 20 as an advocacy week and is urging members across the country to use this time (or any time in August or early fall, when legislators are on summer recess) to set up a meeting to advocate for IDEA funding.

  • Contact legislators’ local offices (contact information is available at House of Representatives or U.S. Senate or by calling the U.S. Capitol switchboard, 202-224-3121) to express concerns.

  • Contact legislators’ local office to find a Town Hall meeting, where lawmakers meet with constituents to learn about issues important to them.

  • Share how funding cuts, or uncertainty over future cuts, are affecting them (send stories to grassroots@asha.org), so ASHA can communicate the stories on Capitol Hill.

  • Join the Federal Advocacy Network and become a grassroots captain. Captains serve as the primary contacts with their U.S. senators and representatives and help galvanize speech-language pathology and audiology colleagues in federal advocacy initiatives.

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July 2012
Volume 17, Issue 9