Though the federal government has just begun to hammer out a Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, dramatic cuts to education programs may be on the way. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Chairman of the Budget Committee in the House, is expected to formally release the House Republican budget proposal this Tuesday, with a markup for the resolution scheduled for Wednesday. This budget resolution will determine top-line spending levels that appropriators in the House can work under while crafting the FY 13 budget, which is due by September 30.

The August Budget Control Act (BCA) already set the top-line spending levels for FY 13, but conservative members in the House want to renege on the agreement made between both parties in the House and Senate and cut deeper.

The August Budget Control Act also resulted in across-the-board funding cuts (known as sequestration), to defense and discretionary programs, including all discretionary education programs except for Pell grants, beginning next January—the middle of a school year. Current estimates by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities indicate that all discretionary programs open to sequestration would be cut by 9.1 percent. Based on current spending levels, this cut would eliminate $4.1 billion in investments to the Department of Education (ED) in a single year, risking services to millions of students and impacting thousands of jobs in the education sector. The National Education Association put together this helpful chart depicting how sequestration would impact ED programs and each state.

The extra cut to the spending caps, backed by House conservatives, would eliminate the defense cuts mandated by BCA, but maintain the cuts to the discretionary programs such as education. This move could actually deepen the across-the-board cuts to education programs.

Unlike the House, the Senate is not planning to take up a budget agreement this year, since the top-line spending levels are already set in law by the BCA. With the House potentially budgeting at a far lower spending level than the Senate, it is not clear how a FY 13 budget could pass. To eliminate or reduce the effects of sequestration, Congress would then need to pass separate legislation before those cuts occur early in 2013.  

As details emerge and the FY 13 budget process moves forward, we will continue to update the NAESP blog.

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