Sequester cuts loomPublished 2:06pm Thursday, March 14, 2013
Local schools, Head Start prepare for the worst
Congress had until March 1 to avoid the sequester, a series of automatic cuts that will cut government spending $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.
Now that the deadline has come and gone, those who rely on federal funding are steeling themselves for the worst – though little is known about how bad the cuts will be.
According to a press release from the White House, Alabama will lose approximately $11 million in funding for primary and secondary education this year alone.
Alexander City Schools Superintendent Lou Ann Wagoner said the board took steps to minimize the effects of the spending cuts.
“We knew that there would be some percentage (of spending cuts) coming,” Wagoner said. “We assumed that it would be around 8 percent. Every system is going to be hurt to a degree because we all rely heavily on federal funds.”
Wagoner said the board already accounted for an 8 percent decrease in federal funds in its budget to make sure teaching positions wouldn’t be in jeopardy.
“The reason we did this is a lot of our teachers are hired with federal funds,” Wagoner said. “We wanted to make sure that we accounted for that reduction.”
Tallapoosa County Superintendent Joe Windle said that the county schools are using a smaller number for their budget purposes, but are also preparing for a funding cut.
“I don’t think anybody knows the actual (percentage of cuts) at this point,” Windle said. “Our most reliable figure says it could be 5.1 percent of our total federal money.”
Windle said a 5.1 percent reduction of federal funds would mean the county system would receive about $60,000 less than last year.
“That would affect teaching units because we use a great deal of our Title I money for funding additional teachers,” Windle said.
Early education programs, such as Head Start and Early Head Start, will also be affected by the sequestration. According to a White House press release, these early education services would be eliminated for approximately 1,100 children in Alabama.
Head Start programs fall under the umbrella of services offered by The Community Action Committee of Chambers, Tallapoosa and Coosa counties. David Boleware, executive director for Community Action Committee, said reduced funds would mean the program would be forced to serve fewer children.
“We are expecting anywhere from 3 to 6 percent (of federal funding cuts), which means we will have to look at reducing the number of children we are able to serve,” Boleware said.
Currently the Chambers-Tallapoosa Head Start serves 523 children ages 3-5. The majority of funding for the Community Action Committee’s programs and staff come from federal grants.
“We are meeting right now to lay out the best and worst case scenarios,” Boleware said. “Also, we have to look at whether our employees will be on furlough (unpaid leave) or reduced hours.”