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Education Secretary Criticizes Sequestration Cuts

Says mandatory spending decreases would hurt schools


While much of the focus on the impending sequestration cuts have been on their impact on the defense industry — and the fact that Social Security and Medicare are exempt — the spending decreases will impact many other aspects of American life. Including education.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is not happy about this. In a breakfast roundtable with reporters today, Duncan blasted congressional leaders for their lack of progress in passing legislation to avoid the sequester. During the meeting, he said:

“There’s no one in their right mind who would say this is good for kids and good for the country, yet somehow it becomes tenable in Washington. I just think people don’t spend enough time in the real world. And if we spent more time in the real world, we wouldn’t have this kind of intransigence here.”

According to the Obama administration, the cuts mandated by sequestration would remove $725 million from federal Title I programs for poor children, $598 million for federal aid for disabled students, funding for public schools on Native American land, and funding for Department of Defense schools on military bases.

This would put the jobs of around 17,000 teachers at risk and affect at least 1.2 million students.

Duncan said these cuts were worrying particularly because education has already felt negative impacts in recent years because of the financial crisis. Many schools have shortened their school days and school years, and he worries these cuts may lead to further cuts in those areas.

Some libertarian and right-wing pundits have said Duncan is over-estimating the impact these sequestration cuts might have. They say that public schools hired too many teachers over the past 40 years, and that there are actually too many public school employees and not too few. They also say that the size of these cuts will be smaller than those already experienced by school districts previously affected by the Great Recession.

— Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPolitics Editor

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

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