If Congress cannot reach agreement by January 2012 on how to cut $1.5 trillion in spending over the next 10 years, principals will see dramatic cuts in federal funding as automatic across-the-board reductions take effect beginning in January 2013.  
 
Efforts in Congress to hammer out a final agreement on the FY12 budget by Nov.18 have stalled, so Congress likely will pass another stopgap bill, otherwise known as a continuing resolution (or CR) to avoid a federal government shutdown. This 1.5 percent reduction of $329 million to the FY11 levels includes a $163 million decrease in Title I, $129 million in IDEA Part B grants, $25 million in Title II Teacher Quality State Grants, and $12 million in Career and Technical Education State Grants.

These reduced levels could be used as the new base funding level for these programs when lawmakers negotiate the final FY12 budget, compounding the effects of these cuts. Even if the final FY12 budget maintains funding at the FY11 levels, the 1.5 percent cuts will not be restored. Congress would need to pass a 1.5 percent increase in funding for the four effected programs to truly provide level FY11 funding.

The federal budget negotiations are complicated by the efforts of the Joint Select Committee, also known as the super committee, which is working on recommendations to cut $1.5 trillion in spending over the next 10 years. If the committee's proposal, due by the end of November, is not signed into law by the end of this year, automatic $1.2 trillion across-the-board cuts would go into effect over the next 10 years. Fifty percent of these cuts would come from defense spending, and the other 50 percent would come from discretionary domestic programs.    

Many believe the 12-member bipartisan super committee cannot overcome the political stalemates in the House and Senate and produce a proposal that both Republicans and Democrats can support. If this happens, it would make certain the $1.2 trillion across-the-board cuts would go into effect.