After 16 days, it’s over. The President and Congress have agreed to end the federal government shutdown. The agreement funds the government through January 15, 2014 and extends the debt ceiling into February.
The Shutdown Cost Is Twice as Big as IDEA’s Annual FundingHere’s a sobering statistic for you. Standard & Poor’s, a credit rating company, estimates that the shutdown cost the U.S. economy $24 billion. By contrast, federal funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is only $11 billion in 2013. That means that the shutdown cost more than twice the amount of special education funding that the federal governments gives to states each year. In other words, the cost of the shutdown could have paid for two years of IDEA funding.
Sequestration Cuts Remain in Place Moreover, the deal to end the shutdown keeps sequestration in place. Sequestration is the budget-cutting process that requires cuts each year for the next nine years, and which has caused cuts to education, health and military programs. Because of sequestration, schools and communities around the country have reported cuts to education that are harming children.
In fact, in our recent online survey of parents, 52.4 percent of you said that you already seen cuts to special education this year. A whopping 94.1 percent of you said you were worried about the impact of cuts on your child’s education.
Of course, the effects of the shutdown and sequestration have not been felt everywhere. Part of that is because schools are only now adjusting to less funding, and the big federal programs—like IDEA and Title I—are funded in advance, meaning states get the money before they spend it. But the longer sequestration goes on, the more difficult it will be for children to get the supports they need, and the more and more schools will claim that they don’t have the money to help students get what they need.
Congress Revisits the Budget Over the Next Two Months As part of the deal to end the shutdown, the House and the Senate have entered further budget discussions, and must report back by December 13, 2013. Congress will try again to reach a budget resolution and will decide on the future of sequestration.
This is where your responses to our survey are going to help. Along with other organizations, we are presenting your stories about how budget cuts harm the most vulnerable members of our society—children. If you haven’t taken our budget survey, you owe it to every child who struggles to do so now. Please stand with us as we advocate for education funding during the next few months.
Lindsay is the Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for the National Center for Learning Disabilities. She leads a team that designs and implements NCLD’s legislative strategy in Washington, D.C., aimed at advancing government policies that support the success of individuals with learning disabilities in school, at work and in life.