Federal Sequestration Could Mean Loss of Special Education Funds for Birmingham Schools
Birmingham Schools could stand to lose up to $1.8 million if Congress doesn't reach an agreement on federal spending cuts.
Federal funding for Michigan’s public schools — including Birmingham Public Schools — could see major cuts should Congress fail to halt $85 billion in "sequestration" spending cuts scheduled to take place March 1, according to a statement released by the White House Sunday.
In Michigan, the cuts would result in a loss of $22 million in funding for schools this year, which the White House estimates would “put around 300 teacher and aid jobs at risk.” It would also cut $20.3 million in funding for special education programs.
In Birmingham, the school district could stand to lose up to $1.8 million should sequestration take place.
According to Debbie Piesz, assistant superintendent for business services at Birmingham Public Schools, almost $3 million of the district's annual budget comes from the federal government. That includes:
- Medicaid reimbursement
- $293,000 from the National School Lunch program
- $2.6 million for IDEA (Individiuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act) and other preschool programs
According to Piesz, Birmingham has received around $1.2 million of that federal money at the end of February — meaning the district might not receive the full $1.8 million left should the cuts take affect. The students most impacted: those with disabilities, Piesz said.
Should the spending cuts happen, Piesz said the district would have to make up those dollars by dipping into its fund equity, a type of savings account for the district.
"Since we are already so far into this fiscal year, it would be difficult to cut programs," Piesz said Wednesday. "The (school) board would need to make a decision as to future cuts the longer the sequestration goes on."
Michigan programs in danger
The loss in education funding are just part of the impact that President Barack Obama said the cuts would have on Michigan jobs, services and health care.
On Sunday, the White House released a state-by-state breakdown of the kind of impacts the spending cuts could have, urging Congress to consider tax hikes for the nation's wealthiest citizens in order to balance out spending cuts.
In Michigan, they include:
- Loss of $22 million in funding for primary and secondary education
- Loss of $20.3 million in funds for about 240 teachers, aides and staff who work with children with disabilities
- Fewer financial aid packages for nearly 2,500 students, and less work-study jobs
- The elimination of Head Start and Early Head Start services for 2,300 children
- A loss of $5.9 million in environmental funding, plus $1.5 million in grants for wildlife protection
- The furlough of 10,000 civilian Department of Defense employees and loss of $14 million in army base operation funding
- Loss of $482,000 in Justice Assistance Grants for local law enforcement agencies
- Loss of $1.7 million in funding for job search assistance
- Loss of access to childcare for as many as 900 children
- Reduced funding of $301,000 for childhood vaccines
- Loss of $944,000 in funds for public health planning efforts, as well as $2.9 million in grants for substance abuse treatment, and $315,000 in funding for the Michigan Department of Community Health
- Loss of up to $209,000 in funds for domestic violence victim services
- Loss of $1.8 million in funds for meals for seniors.
The total federal spending cuts would be about $1.2 trillion over the next nine years.
"Unfortunately, many Republicans in Congress refuse to ask the wealthy to pay a little more by closing tax loopholes so that we can protect investments that are helping grow our economy and keep our country safe," the White House statement reads.
"By not asking the wealthy to pay a little more, Republicans are forcing our children, seniors, troops, military families and the entire middle class to bear the burden of deficit reduction."
Meanwhile, Republicans have accused the president of using the impending cuts for political gain.