As the deficit debate continues in Washington, local school boards are planning next year's budgets, waiting for word as to whether the so-called sequestration will mean less funding. Monroe County School Boards Association Executive Director Jody Siegle said any potential federal budget cuts to education will not be in effect until the next school year. While final figures were not available, Siegle said the latest estimates put the cuts at around 5.2 percent.
The cuts, if an agreement on deficit reduction is not reached by this Friday, would also impact federally mandated programs like special education. Siegle said even with a loss of funding from Washington, school districts will not be relieved of their obligation to provide these services to students. Instead, districts will have to dig deeper into the pockets of local taxpayers.
Siegle called the sequester an "artificial crisis" that was avoidable. "One of the things I tell school board members in their governance training is that there are going to be plenty of problems that come to your district that you're going to have to deal with. You don't have to make extra ones at your board's table by creating situations that complicate your ability to work. This is exactly what Congress has done."
Siegle said while funding cuts to education programs will be a problem for next year's budget, if they occur, she is concerned about the more immediate impact of the loss of federal dollars for programs that impact poor students, "because there's going to be a cut in the food stamp allocation for families that need food stamps, and there are going to be cuts in the money available for health services for needy families, and those things will affect the circumstances of the lives of the children who need that everyday support."