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How the sequester will impact schools this year

Children eat breakfast at the federally-funded Head Start Program school on September 20, 2012 in Woodbourne, New York.

This week, children in many parts of the country go back to school, just as districts enact cuts due to the sequester. The 5.2 percent across-the-board reduction in education funding amounts to about $1.7 billion. It trickles down from state, to school district, to individual school. Not all students will feel the impact of the cuts, but those who do will likely lose a teacher or staff member. 

According to the American Association of School Administrators, three out of four superintendants said the sequester cuts would force them to eliminate jobs, on average about five  per district. Those employees likely worked with poor and disabled students, because federal dollars often fund programs for the disadvantaged, said Sean Garren with the advocacy group Fair Share. 

“These across-the-board cuts everybody will feel, but the kids that need it the most, and the schools that are least likely to handle these cuts are the ones that are going to see the brunt hit them,” Garren said.

The sequester hits the Head Start program hard, because it’s  funded soley by the federal government. About 65,000 fewer low-income children will join the early-education program this year.

Keesha Woods is director of the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s Head Start program. The reduction in federal funding means 900 fewer 3-year olds will join the program this year. Most of those children come from families with a single parent who works a low-wage job and can’t afford traditional child care, she said.

“We often find that the parents are emotional," she said. "We’ve had calls, so far: ‘My four year old was in Head Start, they’re moving onto kindergarten; I was depending on my  three year old getting in, so now I’m going to have to quit my job’,” she said.

Woods says, it means thousands of children won’t be ready for kindergarten, while their parents suffer their own career setbacks.

About the author

Andrea Gardner is a journalism professor and writer in Pasadena, Calif.

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