Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speaks on CBS’s “Face the Nation” in Washington. Duncan spoke about the instability created by across-the-board, sequestration, cuts and their impact on education budget.
In recent months, the American government has bumped its head on the debt ceiling, nearly lost its footing on the edge of the fiscal cliff and now, with no metaphor to speak of, the $85 billion in budget cuts split between defense and domestic programs — aka the sequester — is the next hurdle for a Congress that appears increasingly gridlocked.
And while in the past Congress has enacted last-minute legislation to avoid automatic cuts, the sequester seems likely, according to various Washington insiders, including former vice presidential nominee and Congressman Paul Ryan.
With this in mind, here’s a look at three cuts Americans can expect if the March 1 deadline passes with no deal struck:
First surfaced in January right after the fiscal cliff was partially averted, this 8.2% in cuts to the federal work study program is becoming more of a reality.
In addition to work-study cuts, the sequester would trigger $49 million in cuts to the Educational Opportunity Grant (EOG) program, which provides aid to students with exceptional need — the lowest expected family contribution scores on the free application for federal student aid (FAFSA).
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned in a testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee that 33,000 students across the nation would be “eliminated” from the work-study program and 71,000 recipients would see reductions in their EOG.
“Reducing education funding now and in the coming years, it would jeopardize our nation’s ability to develop and support an educated, skilled workforce that can compete in the global economy,” Duncan said.
College students can also expect increases in one-time loan origination fees for federally backed student loans, although these increase were described as “marginal” by Duncan.
Not only would these cuts make getting a college education harder, but Duncan says that it will weaken our nation’s defense.
“Cutting education funding also could hurt our military preparedness, because we won’t have enough high school graduates for our uniformed services,” Duncan said. “Already, nearly 25% of American students who do not graduate from high school will not be able to serve in the military, and 30% of high school graduates still lack the basic math, science and English competency skills to pass the military’s entrance exam. Sequestration would only make this situation worse.”
The defense department, including its military and civilian workforce, will see several cuts as part of the sequester.
“In the event of sequestration we will do everything we can to be able to continue to perform our core mission of providing for the security of the United States,” said Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in a message to Defense Department staff. “But there is no mistaking that the rigid nature of the cuts forced upon this department, and their scale, will result in a serious erosion of readiness across the force.”
Panetta warned of furloughs — periods of required, unpaid time off — for all of the department’s civilian staff.
These furloughs would have wide-reaching implications, including consequences for veteran health care. As many as 40% of healthcare staff are civilians. In addition, virtually every program and investment of the defense department will see cuts, according to a Pentagon report.
This comes in addition to a hiring freeze instituted as part of previous congressional decisions.
Spring break plans could see some complications, due to sequestration cuts that would lead to the closure of 100 air traffic control towers, leading to delayed, and in some cases canceled, flights, according to a report by USA TODAY.
Transportation Secretary Roy LaHood also warned that nightshift operations at many of the nation’s airports would be eliminated.
Obama also said, in lengthy remarks outlining sequester cuts, that airport security could be impacted, leading to longer wait times at security checkpoints.
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