Justin Raber: Congress must act to help schools
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On Jan. 2, 2013, schools throughout West Virginia will experience federal budget cuts of more than 8 percent, affecting vital education programs beginning in the 2013-14 school year, unless Congress intervenes.
The across-the-board cuts known as "sequestration" are the result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which mandates reductions in both defense and nondefense discretionary programs as a means of deficit reduction, with no consideration for vital investments in long-term economic growth.
For school districts across the nation, it will mean more than $4 billion in cuts to public education, and while the cuts to programs like Title I and Special Education (IDEA) are across-the-board reductions, our highest-need schools and students will suffer the most, as their share of federal funding is higher.
We know that education is vital to long-term economic health. Our community is working hard with much less to successfully educate college- and career-ready students. The success in our own community should not be jeopardized because our members in Congress are incapable of identifying a responsible, balanced, and bipartisan approach to deficit reduction that preserves investments in vital services for children and families.
For all schools throughout the state, sequestration will mean a loss in funding of vital programs, loss of after-school and summer learning programs, less course offerings such as Advanced Placement courses, and possible reductions in services and employment of teachers and support staff. This will impact the overall quality of education for our students and the overall economic health of our entire community.
Already, we've suffered cuts to educational programs and student supports. Currently, many school districts throughout the state have to make hard decisions on a daily basis due to reduced funding. The time to correct these issues has passed, and Congress must act now!
Now is not the time for thoughtless, blunt reductions. Now is the time for leadership in Washington. Join the West Virginia PTA in urging our own members of Congress, Reps. Shelley Moore Capito, Nick Rahall and David McKinley; and Sens. Rockefeller and Manchin to join with colleagues from both sides of the aisle to intervene and protect education. Deficit reduction is needed, but the PTA is counting on Congress to sideline the bickering and reach consensus on a responsible approach that doesn't place disproportionate burden on students by decimating our national investment in education and long-term competitiveness.
Raber is president-elect of West Virginia PTA, the largest child-advocacy association in the state, founded in 1923 and including 6,000 members.