September 21 2012

Sequestration Scare: Will Cutting Less than 10 Percent Really Cripple Big ED?

Vicki E. Alger

Earlier this month the OMB released an update to its dreaded Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012 report. (The full report is close to 400 pages, and can be downloaded here, along with the 22-page update here. For the Department of Education’s Sequestration percentages and amounts, see pp. 60-64).

The initial sequestration report released this summer by  Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, and Related Agencies, ominously warned: “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 – that serve a combined 30.7 million children.” (See p. 2 here.)

Also this summer U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and described the 7.8 percent program funding reduction as “devastating.” Duncan summed up saying, “Essentially, we're playing chicken with the lives of the American people.” (It’s actually closer to 8.2 percent now. See pp. 60-64).

Let’s just look at the programs Sen. Harkin highlighted: $2.7 billion in sequester cuts for fiscal year 2013 affecting 30.7 million children works out to a per-child cut of…$87.

Devastating indeed.

The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke did a more thorough analysis. Here’s what she found:

Since the 1970s, federal per-pupil expenditures have more than doubled (after adjusting for inflation). …Much of that money has gone toward expanding bureaucracy and non-teaching administrative positions in our nation’s public schools. From 1970 to 2010, student enrollment increased a modest 7.8 percent, while the number of non-teaching staff positions increased 138 percent. …

There is ample room to trim bureaucracy at the Department of Education. And it would be bad policy to continue blindly increasing federal education spending. The Obama Administration has been on an education spending binge for the past three and a half years: a nearly $100 billion bonus to the department in 2009 through the “stimulus,” a $10 billion public education bailout the year after that, and now a proposed $70 billion education budget (up from $68 billion) with $60 billion in supplemental spending.

Taxpayers cannot afford to continue financing the federal government’s failed experiment in education intervention. Like most federal policy areas, some fiscal restraint is needed in education spending.

 

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