The week after Christmas was filled with talk of the fiscal cliff and the efforts of President Obama and Congress to avoid a financial mess of their own creation. March 1 brings about another such fiscal dilemma, sequestration, yet the fanfare for this is relatively low. Some would even argue that sequestration would not be a big deal. No one said that about the fiscal cliff which highlights, in part, just how big of a problem this could really be. The fiscal cliff had everyone’s attention as its effects would be on display on every pay stub in the country. Sequestration, however, will not affect as many people directly as the fiscal cliff, but it will affect everyone in a more subtle way. That many seem to ignore this impact is alarming.
At this point, sequestration seems almost unavoidable. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton was in Washing yesterday for a national governor’s conference and was not encouraged by what he saw. The White House is putting pressure on Congress to strike a deal to avoid sequestration, a scheduled budget cut resulting from the 2011 Budget Control Act, but no one seems to think that this will happen.
Just how sequestration will affect the lives of Americans has been a topic of some debate. One of the focal points has been the impact it will have on travel as 47,000 federal aviation workers will be laid off. Defense spending has been another focal point. Both of those are important but even more damaging could be the impact that sequestration will have on education.
How will sequestration affect Minnesota? At a higher education level, approximately 920 low income college students will not receive financial aid to pay for school and 500 fewer work-study jobs will be available. The state will also lose around $7 million in funding for primary and secondary schools which could lead to a loss of around 100 jobs. In addition, $9.2 million in funding for disabled students will also be cut. Even the youngest of students would be impacted as Head Start would accept around 700 fewer students into its Pre-K programs due to the cuts.
There are many other impacts of the cuts that will be felt but the impact on education in Minnesota alone is huge. While Governor Dayton is focused on trying to get almost 10,000 more students into Pre-K programs, sequestration would reduce that number by 700. To allow such a hit to the children, the future of the nation, is inexcusable especially when coupled with the biggest cut for the state impacting disabled students. This is not only a financial calamity but a social one as well. Congress appears to be content to lay politics while failing in their responsibility to be the stewards of the country. In a sad statement on modern politics, a lack of leadership today will take its biggest toll on those who will become the leaders of tomorrow. One can only hope that it is a lesson they will not learn and emulate.