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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION FACING “DEVASTING” SPENDING CUTS IN JANUARY 2013: Senators Plan Details Impact of Automatic Spending Cuts

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“This bipartisan compromise will make sure Congress gets reports on the impact of all aspects of sequestration, both defense and nondefense.”

As mentioned in the previous article, final Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 funding levels for the U.S. Department of Education are not expected until after the November elections, at which time the U.S. Congress is expected to return for a “lame duck” session to consider unfinished appropriations bill. Additionally, Congress may also address the looming cuts to military and domestic spending that were triggered when the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, aka the “supercommittee,” failed to agree on a plan to reduce the nation’s deficit.

These automatic across-the-board cuts totaling $1.2 trillion over ten years, formally called “sequestration,” will go into effect in January 2013 unless Congress acts to change them by agreeing to a mix of tax increases and spending cuts to offset the amount.

Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the impact of these cuts would be “both significant and very negative [and], in a word … devastating.” He said the cuts, which would result in a 7.8 percent drop in domestic discretionary spending, would make it “impossible” to achieve the Department of Education’s fundamental mission to prepare students for college and a career. Specifically, Duncan noted that Title I would be cut by $1.2 billion, denying funding to nearly 4,000 schools serving more than 1.6 million disadvantaged students and could result in more than 16,000 teachers and aides losing their jobs.

In a recent article, the New York Times notes that cuts to the defense budget have received a great deal of attention from lawmakers while other government programs, which are facing equally large cuts, have “received a scintilla of the attention and outrage that the planned Pentagon cuts have attracted.” In an effort to shine a light on the cuts that all programs are facing, the U.S. Senate recently passed an amendment by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and John McCain (R-AZ) that would compel the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Department of Defense to deliver a report on the impact of all of the planned reductions.

“This bipartisan compromise will make sure Congress gets reports on the impact of all aspects of sequestration, both defense and nondefense,” said Murray. “I was proud to work with Senator McCain to come to this bipartisan agreement today. Our amendment calls for an examination of the impact of automatic cuts to the Defense Department, as well as the painful cuts to education, food safety, border patrol, and so many of the programs middle class families and the most vulnerable Americans depend on.”

The amendment calls on the Department of Defense to release a report by August 15 on the impact of defense sequestration. It also calls on OMB to release a report within thirty days and President Obama to release a report within sixty days on the impact of all of sequestration, across both defense and nondefense spending. Although the amendment has yet to become law, observers believe it will pass in the coming weeks.

More information on the Murray/McCain amendment is available at http://bit.ly/Oh7j3d.

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