Senate Appropriators Examine Sequestration Cuts in Education
July 26, 2012
The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing Wednesday entitled “The Impact of Sequestration on Education.” The committee heard testimony from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and other witnesses on the threat to education under budget sequestration.
Secretary Duncan’s testimony called for Congress to focus on the non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending that will face over $500 billion in cuts if sequestration is not avoided. The across-the-board cuts will be applied indiscriminately to all education programs, including Perkins. Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) noted efforts by congressional Republican to eliminate the $500 billion cut in defense spending that would occur under sequestration. If successful, the full burden of the cuts would fall on domestic programs for education, workforce training, health care and law enforcement among others. In response to a question from Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Duncan noted the large skills gap that has resulted in more than 2 million unfilled jobs. He stated that employers will likely go overseas if they do not believe U.S. workers can fill these positions and that the United States must continue to invest in education in order to remain globally competitive.
Later in the hearing, June Atkinson, North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Instruction, specifically referenced Perkins funding as a source of important federal support for her state that will be jeopardized by sequestration. North Carolina, which boasts a 90 percent graduation rate among CTE concentrators, has utilized Perkins funds to lead the nation in the number of students receiving Microsoft certifications. “Those certifications communicate to businesses that our students are prepared for success in the workplace,” said Atkinson. “Without support from CTE funds for this initiative, we could not have prepared teachers to facilitate this important initiative to our students.”
The committee’s ranking Republican Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) took the Obama Administration to task for failing to fully account for how sequestration will affect government programs, a criticism that has come from Democrats in Congress as well. On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed the Sequester Transparency Act that requires the White House to provide a report, within 30 days of enactment, on the impact of sequestration for the next fiscal year. The bill has already been passed by an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives.