Automatic cuts may put teaching jobs in jeopardy

Ohio could lose more than 1,500 education-related jobs and more than $98 million in federal education funding if automatic discretionary spending cuts go into effect Jan. 2.

“States and local communities would lose $2.7 billion in federal funding for just three critical education programs alone – Title I, special education state grants, and Head Start,” Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said in a report released Wednesday. “Nationwide, these cuts would force 46,349 employees to either lose their jobs or rely on cash-strapped states and localities to pick up their salaries instead.”

For fiscal year 2012, more than $68.1 billion in discretionary funding was appropriated to the U.S. Department of Education. The January cuts would eliminate $35.9 billion of that discretionary funding.

In Ohio for fiscal year 2013, Title I would lose more than $43 million, special education funding would drop $36 million and Head Start programs would be trimmed by $22 million. The Head Start funds come from of the Ohio Department of Health and Human Services.

The cuts would represent a funding reduction of 7.5 percent for those three programs combined. For fiscal year 2012, Ohio was allocated $588 million in Title I funds, $463 million in special education grants and $287 million for Head Start. Title I funding benefits economically disadvantaged districts.

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The automatic cuts, which also are referred to as sequestration, are a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011. They will be implemented if a bipartisan congressional panel does not come up with a plan by January to reduce the national debt by $1.2 trillion in the next 10 years.

Harkin is the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, and Related Agencies. His report was issued with a plea for a “better, fairer solution,” to the deficit that includes spending reductions and new revenue.

He referred to the sequestration as “tremendously destructive.”

“I hope this report will motivate members of both parties to embrace a spirit of compromise,” he said. “We all must come together with goodwill to hammer out a balanced agreement that will not only prevent sequestration, but reduce our deficit and protect America’s families.”

Mark Caleb Smith, the director of the Center for Political Studies at Cedarville College, said he does not expect any movement on this front before the November election.

“Neither party will want to hand the other a major victory before the campaign,” Smith said. “The real time for compromise will be between the election and the January enactment of these cuts. There is a possibility that something will take place at that point.”

Ann Bernardo, treasurer for Huber Heights City Schools, said the cuts would affect families in her district. Huber Heights is scheduled to receive $1.4 million in Title I funding for this school year.

“I know that spending needs to be decreased, but I would hope these cuts don’t go through,” she said. “We do need these funds.”

Ohio Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, said it is often hard to sort out the political hype in a report such as this, and to quantify whether the numbers are accurate.

“But, $1.2 trillion is a lot of money,” Lehner said. “I wish Congress would get to work and figure this out.”

Lehner said it is clear that spending is out of control. She cited documentation showing that the state budget has grown from $2.9 billion in fiscal year 1975 to $26.2 billion in FY 2011.

“It clearly demonstrates how government spending has exploded over the years, and I frankly don’t know that we have that much to show for it,” Lehner said. “Budget corrections are definitely needed, but they must be done thoughtfully with an eye on the value we derive from the expenditures.

“Merely slashing $1.2 trillion without being extremely deliberative about the process would be irresponsible at best.”

Cuts to other departments that would be affected by sequestration, according to Harkin’s report, are $20.1 billion in spending by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; $5 billion trimmed from U.S. Department of Labor programs; and $890 million carved out of the budget of the Social Security Administration.

Other automatic cuts to the Ohio Department of Education would include $1.5 million in school improvement grants; $6.6 million in teacher quality grants; $3.4 million in 21st century community learning centers; $3.2 million in federal work study; and $2.5 million in supplemental educational opportunity grants.

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