By Liany Elba Arroyo, Associate Director, Education and Children’s Policy Project, NCLR
Mamis, think the fiscal cliff isn’t a big deal? Think again!
The fiscal cliff is approaching rapidly and negotiations between Congress and the White House appear to be going nowhere. It seems like falling off the cliff is inevitable. What isn’t inevitable, however, is the damage that this will cause to the economy, our communities, and our schools.
The fiscal cliff refers to the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and the start of new budget cuts required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 through a process known as sequestration. How this will affect the economy has been front-page news, but what is talked about less is what happens to our education system on January 2, when the budget cuts go into effect. For our most vulnerable children, particularly the more than 17 million Latino children in this country, the stakes are high.
While our education system is funded primarily by local property taxes, federal funds account for 8% of all education spending. However, poor districts receive additional funding from the federal government that they count on to keep schools open, teachers in the classroom, and assistance available to the neediest students. For some districts, federal funding covers a substantial portion of their budgets. For example, a recent analysis found that federal funds make up more than 15% of the school budgets in Los Angeles, Miami, and Philadelphia and more than 20% of the budgets in Chicago and Milwaukee.
What does this all mean? After the fiscal cliff, for every $1 million that a school district receives in federal funding, sequestration will take away $82,000. For districts with disproportionately large Latino and Black populations, that loss could have devastating effects. The programs that stand to lose most are those created to help these children compete. For example:
- 1.8 million fewer children will be served by Title I, which helps the poorest students.
- 145,180 children will lose access to before- or after-school programs.
- 10,899 fewer educators will be available to support special needs students.
- 26,949 fewer infants and toddlers will receive early intervention services.
Latino children have so much at stake during this debate. They are 23% of all public school students. Thirty-seven percent of all Latino children attend the nation’s poorest schools. Over one-third of all students served by Title I are Latino. If we fall off the fiscal cliff, our children will suffer the consequences of our inaction. As the mamis of our future leaders, we must inform ourselves and act to ensure that Congress and the Obama administration make the right decisions. Our children are depending on us.