With only five months remaining until sequestration (the automatic, across-the-board cuts to defense and non-defense discretionary spending authorized by the Budget Control Act of 2011), Congress and the Administration are beginning to recognize the potentially devastating impact of the process on families and children. Under the Budget Control Act (BCA) passed last summer, most federal programs face an across-the-board cut on Jan. 2, 2013, if Congress does not enact a plan to reduce the national debt by $1.2 trillion. Here is the latest sequestration news impacting afterschool and summer learning opportunities for young people:
- The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies held a hearing on July 25 to determine the impact of sequestration on non-defense jobs and services. Among the witnesses testifying before the subcommittee were Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Dr. Tammy Mann, president and CEO of The Campagna Center in Alexandria, VA, a provider of both afterschool and Head Start programs for children. During the question and answer period, Sen. Durbin (D-IL) emphasized the valuable role that afterschool programs play in keeping young people safe and engaged during the hours after the regular school day.
- In conjunction with the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Harkin (D-IA) released “Under Threat,” a comprehensive report detailing the loss of services for young people if sequestration takes place. Among the findings: 145,180 fewer students would be able to access afterschool and summer learning opportunities currently provided through the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) initiative; and 80,000 fewer children would be served by the Child Care Development Block Grant.
- Also on Wednesday, July 25, a rally on Capitol Hill held by the Non-Defense Discretionary (NDD) Coalition representing over 3,000 local, state and national organizations urged Congress to take a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to non-defense discretionary programs, like afterschool and summer learning programs. Sens. Harkin and Murray (D-WA) and Reps. DeLauro (D-CT) and Miller (D-CA) all spoke. Earlier this month the Afterschool Alliance joined the NDD Coalition in sending a letter to Congress reiterating the same message of a balanced approach to cutting spending.
- Last Friday the Department of Education sent a memo to the nation’s chief state school officers indicating that the major K–12 formula grant education programs, including Title I, will not be subject to sequestration funding cuts during the upcoming 2012–13 school year. The memo states, "Assuming Congress enacts a 2013 appropriations bill that is structured similarly to the pending House or Senate bills—a reasonable assumption based on past practice—there is no reason to believe that a sequestration would affect funding for the 2012–13 school year." The programs that would be spared cuts in the upcoming school year include Title I and Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, special education, and career technical education. While seemingly a reprieve for school districts anticipating cuts to their 2012-2013 budgets, the memo goes on to say that sequestration will mean cuts occurring later in 2013: "the damage from across-the-board cuts… would be severe" during the 2013–14 school year. While the memo does not mention 21st CCLC by name, it does state, “most other Department elementary and secondary programs award funds late in the fiscal year for the following school year, either through a formula or following a competition for discretionary grants, so the impact of the BCA on these programs will not be felt until the 2013-14 school year as well.” 21st CCLC falls into that group of programs, therefore the impact of sequestration will likely not be fully felt by 21st CCLC grantees until fall 2013.
Friends of afterschool should continue to stay informed on the sequestration process as it unfolds this fall. Take a moment to email your Members of Congress to let them know the value of afterschool and summer learning programs to young people in your community, and the need to protect federal support for these vital lifelines.