On midnight September 30 the federal government ceased most of its operations for the first time since 1996. This means that “non-essential” government services and programs are suspended until Congress passes a Continuing Resolution (CR) or a budget for FY2014 to fund the government. Most federal employees have been furloughed and all museums and national parks run by the National Park Service are closed. The government does provide for some “excepted” employees and activities during a shutdown that are deemed necessary to protect life, liberty and property namely the U.S. military, border patrol agents, TSA security screeners, air traffic controllers and food inspectors.
In regards to education, the U.S. Department of Education has furloughed 90% of its 4,225 employees, which means there will be processing delays in grant applications, contracts and delays and/or no communications coming from the Department. The Department has stated its website will not be updated until the shutdown is over. The one piece of good news is that most schools and districts will not face an immediate impact due to the shutdown since most federal education programs are forward-funded. This means money for formula funded programs such as Title I and II, IDEA, and career and technical education programs has already been distributed to education agencies. Additionally, the department will ensure that $22 billion in formula funding to states and districts will be dispersed as planned this month. While a short-term shutdown may not immediately impact schools and districts, a longer lasting shutdown will severely hamper the work of the Department and negatively impact schools and districts already adversely affected by sequestration. For additional information on the Department’s detailed shutdown plan, click here.
Additionally, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee have shuttered their doors during the shutdown and most Hill staff have been furloughed as well and are under instructions to not respond to work-related emails. With the doors to both education committees closed for business indefinitely it is even more unlikely that we will see ESEA get to the floor of the Senate, much less be conferenced and reauthorized this year.
One can only hope that Congress will come to their senses and do what is right for the nation by funding government operations, passing a budget for FY2014 which addresses sequestration and deals with the looming debit ceiling deadline on October 17. NASSP will continue to advocate for the repeal of sequestration to stop the harmful cuts to investments in education for our nation’s children and support a balanced, bipartisan solution to deficit reduction.