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Impact of Sequester Cuts on Macomb County Schools Unclear

Automatic federal spending cuts will happen March 1 if Congress does not reach an agreement before that time.

Federal funding for Michigan’s public schools—including Macomb County districts—could be cut even further should Congress fail to halt $85 billion in "sequestration" spending cuts scheduled to take hold March 1, according to a statement released this week by the White House.

In Michigan, the cuts would result in a loss of $22 million in funding for schools this year, which the White House estimates would “put around 300 teacher and aid jobs at risk.” It would also cut $20.3 million in funding for special education programs.

However, school officials for districts across Macomb County say they are unsure of exactly how the sequester will impact their budgeting and programs.

"It is our understanding at this point in time that any reductions as a result of these cuts would not take effect until next school year," said Diane Blain, Chippewa Valley community relations director. "We are not sure what the impact may be to our programs and services."

The district currently receives $1.5 million in federal funding for Title I, which assists with low-income students; $306,721 for Title II, used for professional development; and $114,788 for Title III, which helps with English language learners.

Chippewa Valley's multimillion-dollar special education budget is supplemented with $2.7 million in federal aid.

In Fraser Public Schools, officials predict the cuts would amount to approximately $96,000 from Title I, Title II, career and tech education, and special education.

Whether these cuts would mean layoffs remains to be seen.

"If the sequestration passes, Fraser Public Schools would need to look at the federal grants to see where cuts could be made that would have the least amount of impact on our students," said Nicole Malak, community relations coordinator.

"Fraser Public Schools will continue to look very carefully at how we allocate our resources for the 2013-14 school year."

Meanwhile, New Haven Community Schools is preparing for as much as a 15 percent cut in federal funding.

"We always use 85 percent as the rule for federal funding," said Superintendent Keith Wunderlich. "Each year, sequestration or not, we only plan to get 85 percent of what we received the year before."

The district currently receives $53,000 in Title II funds and $300,000 in Title I, which means even a 5 percent cut in federal funding could mean the loss of $17,650, or one paraprofessional position.

The White House on Sunday released a state-by-state breakdown of the impacts of impending spending cuts, urging Congress to consider tax hikes for the nation's wealthiest citizens in order to balance out spending cuts.

"Unfortunately, many Republicans in Congress refuse to ask the wealthy to pay a little more by closing tax loopholes so that we can protect investments that are helping grow our economy and keep our country safe," the White House statement reads. "By not asking the wealthy to pay a little more, Republicans are forcing our children, seniors, troops, military families and the entire middle class to bear the burden of deficit reduction."

The losses in education funding are just part of the impact that President Barack Obama said the cuts would have on Michigan jobs, services and health care.

In Michigan, they include:

  • Loss of $22 million in funding for primary and secondary education
  • Loss of $20.3 million in funds for about 240 teachers, aides and staff who work with children with disabilities
  • Fewer financial aid packages for nearly 2,500 students, and less work-study jobs
  • The elimination of Head Start and Early Head Start services for 2,300 children
  • A loss of $5.9 million in environmental funding, plus $1.5 million in grants for wildlife protection
  • The furlough of 10,000 civilian Department of Defense employees and loss of $14 million in army base operation funding
  • Loss of $482,000 in Justice Assistance Grants for local law enforcement agencies
  • Loss of $1.7 million in funding for job search assistance
  • Loss of access to childcare for as many as 900 children
  • Reduced funding of $301,000 for childhood vaccines
  • Loss of $944,000 in funds for public health planning efforts, as well as $2.9 million in grants for substance abuse treatment, and $315,000 in funding for the Michigan Department of Community Health
  • Loss of up to $209,000 in funds for domestic violence victim services
  • Loss of $1.8 million in funds for meals for seniors.

The total federal spending cuts would be about $1.2 trillion over the next nine years.

Republicans have accused the president of using the impending cuts for political gain.

A meeting between Obama and congressional leaders is scheduled for Friday, although political analysts say a last-minute deal to avoid the sequester is unlikely.

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