After the coming elections this November and before the end of the 2012, Congress is faced with several major decisions that will impact our nation’s financial situation. One of the major decisions Congress faces is how to deal with automatic funding cuts (called “budget sequestration”) to both military and domestic spending programs that will take place on January 2, 2013. Funding to support education and other programs that serve and impact individuals with learning disabilities will be greatly impacted by the cuts. Approximately nine percent will be cut from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Title I, and other critical education programs that serve individuals with learning disabilities.
Sequestration is the outgrowth of the creation of a “super” committee that Congress created in August of 2011. This committee was tasked with identifying and approving $1.2 trillion in cuts in federal spending over ten years. The committee was not able to come to an agreement on which cuts to approve, so a process called “budget sequestration” was triggered.
Budget sequestration institutes across-the-board cuts in nearly all federal spending programs of roughly the same amount. Certain programs like Medicare, Pell Grants and child nutrition programs are exempt from sequestration, or have limits on the percentage of funding that can be reduced. Left unchecked, cuts of $110 billion in federal spending will happen each year, starting with this coming January, for the next nine years. These cuts will be evenly divided between military spending and non-defense-related spending.
Sequestration will have an especially devastating impact on education programs, translating into cuts of about nine percent each year of this nine-year period. For IDEA’s Part B Grants to State program (the main federal program that funds special education services in K-12 schools), this will mean a cut of over $1 billion nationally for 2013. For Title I (the primary program under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that focuses on the education of disadvantaged students), school districts will receive a cut of $1.3 billion nationally in 2013.
What are the options for Congress? If no action is taken, these harmful cuts will be implemented. Congress could also substitute other reductions in spending to meet all or part of the $1.2 trillion that will be cut over the next nine years. There is not a consensus yet in Congress on how to respond to sequestration. There may (or may not) be a resolution determined after the November elections.
We’ll keep you updated on this important issue. Services and protections for individuals with LD are at stake!