As Congress prepares for its summer recess, some senators are looking ahead to a looming deadline: On Jan. 2, 2013, spending by federal agencies could face across-the-board cuts (“sequesters”) of nearly 8 percent. If Congress fails to pass a bill canceling sequestration orders, only a few programs would be exempted.
During the farm bill negotiations this week, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and John McCain (R-AZ) introduced an amendment to research what sequestration would mean for federal programs, including education programs. The amendment, which passed the Senate but has yet to make it into law, would require the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to produce an estimate of the amount by which sequestration would reduce fiscal year 2013 appropriations. On education, the amendment would require President Obama to produce a report specifying how sequestration would impact students, teacher positions lost, and program funding. Early childhood programs such as Head Start, Child Care and Development Block Grants, and Title I grants to school districts could be affected.
Congress has not yet appropriated funding for fiscal year 2013, which begins on Oct. 1, 2012. But we used the funding bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education that passed the Senate Appropriations Committee last week to show what funding might look like after sequestration. The sequester in this scenario is 7.8 percent, an estimate produced last year by the Congressional Budget Office. Actual sequesters may not be identical.
Keep in mind that the point could be moot – Congress could pass legislation overturning sequestration orders, as they’ve done many times in the past. But if not, the effects of sequesters could be significant for early childhood programs.
For more details on sequestration, read this post from our sister blog, Ed Money Watch. To follow the 2013 appropriations process, check out our budget page.