PTA Acknowledges Black Cloud of Sequestration

More cuts from Washington addressed at policy planning meeting

Education probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind at the mention of sequestration.

The term is more often than not associated with automatic military cuts. But at a gathering of local and state representatives from the Parents and Teachers Association on Thursday, the subject loomed largely over the heads of parents and teachers planning for the future.

Sequestration – or automatic, across-the-board national spending cuts – will take effect in March unless a deal in Washington is reached.

“We were originally looking at a 9.1 percent reduction across-the-board cut,” said Jacqui Chevalier, an analyst with the National PTA. “Now, we’re looking, more realistically, at a 5.9 percent federal cut to a good part of the budget that includes public education.”

She added that these cuts will likely impact the districts that currently demand more federal dollars than others, such as San Diego Unified School District.

The cuts may come from summer programming, tutoring support, or academic support services, Chevalier said. But that may happen even if there is a plan to avoid sequestration. 

“What we have seen historically both at the federal level and state level, is that education gets cut pretty easily,” she said. “It’s usually the first on the chopping block.”

Parents also anticipate budgetary challenges from the state this coming year. Though Gov. Jerry Brown anticipates a surplus of money for California in his proposed budget, he said he and lawmakers should plan for leaner times to come.

Also, though many education advocates are still celebrating the passage of Brown’s tax initiative Proposition 30, the PTA was neutral on the measure during campaigning. They chose instead to support the alternate tax measure, Prop. 38.

Now that their measure-of-choice has failed, PTA members will have to reevaluate their position on education funding, said local PTA member Laura Schumacher.

“We’ll find out what’s next,” she said. “They were happy at least that Prop. 30 passed and we don’t have to deal with more draconian cuts, but it isn’t a long term solution.”

On Tuesday, SDUSD officials announced despite the passage of Prop. 30, the district still faces a projected budget deficit of more than $80 million. 

Schumacher said the PTA members would be learning about Prop. 30’s funding formula at the Thursday conference to come up with some short-term solutions.

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