Saturday, March 02, 2013

TOP STORY >> NTA: Schools will suffer

Leader senior staff writer

The National Teachers Association figures the cost of sequestration in Arkansas schools to be more than twice as great as the $11.5 million figure released by the White House and the state.

The White House figure is just for K-12 Title I funds and special-education funds, while the NEA’s $26 million figure includes 19 federal education funds ranging from infants, prekindergarten and Head Start to vocational and post secondary education programs.

The state, using White House figures, calculates that the automatic sequester of funds will cost Arkansas schools about $5.8 million in Title I funds to help educate low-income students and another $5.7 million in special education grants for the 2013-14 school year. The National Education Association says the total losses to K-12 education in the state will be about $7.9 million for the Title I programs and $10.7 million in all.

Then special education programs get hit for another $5.7 million K-12 and preschool grants. Grants for infants and families will lose another $475,000, making a total of $6.2 million less for programs covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

NEA’s estimated total of $26 million in cuts for Arkansas represents education programs at all levels, pre-K-12 plus post secondary, according to Tom Zembar, senior policy analyst for that teachers’ union.


The NEA’s list includes adult education and campus-based student-aid programs, such as federal work-study, among others, he said Friday.

Actually, the total will be higher than $26 million — that’s just for 19 federal education programs NEA chose to illustrate, he said.

Zembar said the White House also uses a slightly lower percentage cut than what NEA used. NEA’s percentage cuts are based on an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The OMB will determine the actual percentage cuts once sequestration goes into effect, he said.

Phyllis Stewart, chief of staff to state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell, said this week she doesn’t anticipate any cuts going into effect before June 30, the end of the school year.

She said former Pinewood Elementary School principal Bobby E. Lester has been working with districts around the state trying to help prepare them for the sequester cuts, which will be about 5 percent across the board in federal education funds. Lester, son of former Pulaski County Special School District superintendent Bobby Lester, is the state director of federal programs.


PCSSD Chief Financial Officer Bill Goff, like Stewart, says he doesn’t expect any cuts this school year, and says there’s nothing coming down the pike that the district can’t handle.

Assuming that the sequester took effect on all federal spending at midnight, about 180 Arkansas teachers could get pink slips before May 1, when school districts are required to inform teachers if they are not being rehired.

Other automatic cuts affecting education in the state are vocational-rehabilitation grants, $2.5 million; career- and technical-education grants, $636,000, and adult basic and literacy-education grants, $298,000.

Cuts to federal supplemental educational opportunity grants, work study grants and outreach programs that target students who would be the first to attend college in their families that amount to about $1.7 million for next school year.

Cuts to the Head Start program will be about $3.8 million, with 241 jobs lost.

That’s nearly half the jobs expected to be lost to the sequestration.