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Maryland Schools Face Sequestration Cuts
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March 5, 2013
With no announcements of a deal on the federal budget, local officials are wondering how the $85 billion in required sequestration cuts will affect them. Maryland stands to lose more than $14 million in federal funds this year alone in primary and secondary education funds. As WYPR’s Gwendolyn Glenn reports, local education officials are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.
By Gwendolyn Glenn
The good news is that sequestration will not affect education funds for districts this school year. Those budgets have already been approved. The bad news is 200 teachers and aides in Maryland could lose their jobs next year if no budget deal is reached in coming months. Also, Head Start could be eliminated for 800 students. In addition, two other programs are at high risk for cuts in the 2013-2014 school, year according to Bill Reinhard, a Maryland State Department of Education spokesperson.
"The biggest federal education program for K-12 is Title 1, that goes to schools that serve families with economically disadvantaged households. The second biggest is special education. Those two areas affect all of our school systems."
Title 1 dollars pay for extra staff and other classroom resources in schools with large numbers of low-income students. Many Title 1 schools are concentrated in Baltimore and in low-income areas throughout the state. As for special education, Reinhard says 12 percent of Maryland’s students fall in that category, so the effects of sequestration could be significant.
"Maryland’s own estimates are that up to 350 special education teachers could lose their jobs because of a lack of funds. We also know it could touch early childhood education, and that would mean as many as 650 children would be denied some services through those programs."
Baltimore County schools chief financial officer Barbara Burnopp says state officials initially thought they would take a $4 million hit in cuts because of sequestration. Now they think it will be closer to $2 million. She says more good news came in a meeting with state education officials last week on special education funding.
"They have some funds they’ve reserved for special education, so they’ll be buffering some of the cuts for the first year, so in special education we probably won’t see a lot of impact. If the cuts stay in place, we probably will see cuts to special education over the next few years, but maybe not next year."
As for how sequestration will affect staffing, Burnopp says only Title 1 aides could be affected next year; no teachers will be pink slipped.
"We have agreements with our unions where no individuals would lose their jobs, so we would have to take any employee cuts through attrition."
Baltimore City officials say they are expecting an 8 percent reduction in federal dollars if the sequestration stays in place. They say principals will decide what programs would be eliminated or reduced. In nearby Anne Arundel County, spokesperson Bob Mosier says they planned ahead in anticipation of possible federal budget cuts.
"When we struck our fiscal year ‘13 budget, we worked with our county council to set aside $2.7 million to be used in case sequestration came to pass."
That figure represents the amount the district estimates they would lose in federal funds next year if Congress and the White House can’t reach a deal on the budget.
"We believe we’re in pretty good shape as far as ‘13 and ‘14. What we’ve tried to do is position our schools as best as we could so that the impact on our children and our operations is as minimal as possible."
Education officials across the state are preparing their budgets for next year. Those interviewed say they’re going through the process with the possible cuts in mind—hoping they won’t happen, and watching their dollars closely in the meantime.
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