No Indiana school district stands to lose more than 3 percent of its overall revenues if President Obama and Congressional leaders fail to reach an agreement before a looming budget deadline.
But if Indiana schools were to lose the estimated $114 million in federal K-12 education funding at stake in the so-called “fiscal cliff” debate, programs for some of the state’s most vulnerable student populations would feel a deeper impact.
That’s because dollars underwrite services for special education students — and by law, local districts must still fund those services even if those dollars fall victim to the automatic spending cuts coming at year’s-end.
In the bigger picture, Indiana districts would take a relatively minor hit from the automatic 8 percent reduction in discretionary spending, which wouldn’t kick in until next school year, when compared to the rest of the country.Some argue allowing the cuts to take effect and the Bush-Obama tax cuts to expire on January 1 would make it much easier to bring the national debt down to a more “reasonable” level.
“We can bring the national debt under control in the medium term, simply by doing nothing, without hurting the long-term prospects for the economy,” writes James Kwak for The Atlantic.
But in the short term, states could be left to pick up a $1 billion tab from the federal government for costly special education services.
The View From Atop ‘The Cliff’
“I don’t think the general public understands how expensive special education is,” says Mary Burton of the Northeast Indiana Special Education Cooperative. As the co-op’s executive director, Burton oversees special education services in 12 northeast Indiana school districts spanning four counties.
Federal dollars comprise half of the co-op’s $11 million budget.
Each student in the co-op, like all special education students, has an “individualized education plan” spelling out the services a school must provide. Because the services called for by a student’s “IEP” are protected by law, Burton isn’t afraid of a budget impasse hurting students’ education.
Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana permalink
CHOICE students prepare jars — like this one, for tortilla soup — to help the program raise funds for weekly activities.