Washington School District officials have mailed letters to Missouri congressional leaders asking them to take immediate action to avoid the deep spending cuts known as “sequestration.”
Friday was the deadline for Congress to act on the much-hyped fiscal reductions.
The president must still sign an order formally starting the “sequester” — which according to a new estimate from the Congressional Budget Office — would amount to $42 billion in the current fiscal year.
In a presentation to the school board Wednesday night, Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said the depth of the cuts is estimated to be 5.3 percent which would reduce funding for the U.S. Education Department by millions of dollars.
The Washington School District stands to lose nearly $93,000, she said, which would impact some special services, preschool, class size reduction staffing, and professional development for staff, among other programs.
VanLeer said letters were mailed to U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill and Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer asking them to work with their colleagues to avoid the cuts “which would be devastating to our district and students.”
The superintendent said while some people may think $93,000 is not a lot of money, if those federal dollars are lost the district will have to find another revenue stream for the affected programs.
“And there literally aren’t any other revenue streams, so that means we will have to reprioritize, make cuts to something else or the program goes away,” she said.
The impact to school districts will vary based on the amount of free and reduced funding each receives.
But any reduction is one too many, VanLeer said, for school districts already struggling to stretch their dollars.
“I worry any time we are losing revenue, especially state and federal funds, because we are mostly locally funded and the tax burden is already on our patrons, and something like this only increases that burden,” she said.
Nationally, VanLeer said sequestration would affect millions of students and lead to potentially significant job lossess and program eliminations for all public schools, the educators who run them, and the students they educate.
Blunt released a statement Thursday after the U.S. Senate voted on two sequestration bills, both of which failed to garner 60 votes, saying spending cuts will happen.
“We’ve already dealt with the tax issue. Revenues are off the table. While I think the across-the-board cuts in the president’s sequestration are the worst way to make these cuts, now is the time to get serious about reining in wasteful spending in Washington,” he said.
McCaskill also issued a statement, saying Congress needs to work together in a bipartisan way to achieve a balanced compromise that makes smarter, targeted spending cuts.
She suggested lawmakers instead look at cutting the billions of dollars in taxpayer handouts in the direct payment agriculture subsidy program.
Direct payments are subsidies paid every year to farmers, regardless of farming conditions, including in good times of high commodity prices.
“The Missouri farmers I’ve talk to don’t want or need this handout — these subsidies just can’t be justified,” McCaskill said. “What our farmers really need is a Farm Bill that protects them when disaster strikes, like the devastating drought we experienced just last summer.”