Sequestration Hammers Neediest Schools With Staff Cuts, Closures


Sequestration will hit particularly hard for schoolchildren on military bases and Native American reservations when the academic year begins again, according to a new report from the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS). Teacher layoffs, cuts to technology and building services, fewer extracurricular activities, and shoddier bus service are among the consequences schools reported to NAFIS.

The report explains the specific plight of federally-impacted schools, which “have difficulty generating local revenue – if that is an option at all – due to the non-taxable status of military installations, Native Trust/Treaty land, and other federal property.” Federal Impact Aid dollars close the funding gaps such schools face, but sequestration sliced $60 million off the Impact Aid budget. While that five percent cut is spread across 1,300 schools, it lands hard for the impacted schools most reliant on Impact Aid.

Of 83 school districts NAFIS consulted, 31 cut staffing levels, 11 cut their student transportation services, seven cut their course offerings, and eight eliminated extra-curricular activities. Two school districts – Window Rock in Arizona and Hays/Lodge Pole in Montana, both on Indian lands – closed schools outright.

Congress has moved with alacrity to alleviate some sequester cuts with high-profile impacts, such as the Federal Aviation Administration cuts that lead to long delays for business travelers. But impacted schools and other forms of federal spending on the disadvantaged, such as Head Start programs, have yet to receive the same lawmaker attention. America already spends less of its economic output on education than 43 countries.