School funding in trouble as sequestration looms - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

School funding in trouble as sequestration looms

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Dr. Dee Fowler said there is much to be concerned about. Dr. Dee Fowler said there is much to be concerned about.
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MADISON, AL (WAFF) -

There is one week to go until deep automatic spending cuts hit. Unless Congress can make a deal to avert sequestration, it will cause major cuts in the classroom.

Local school districts would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funding.

Federal funded special education, child nutrition, and tutoring programs would see big cuts. In all, school districts would lose anywhere from five to nine percent of their annual funding. 

In Huntsville, that means up to $1.7-million. For Madison County Schools, it could be as much as $640,000, and Madison City Schools would lose up to a half a million dollars.

Madison Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler said the school district here has enough money carried over to be able to get through this school year without any changes, but if sequestration cuts continues past then, classroom cuts would have to be on the table.

"If we start to cut teachers and the money is not there to employ special education teachers, that's a really big hit for any school district. Losing teachers would definitely be something that would impact a classroom," Fowler said.

The hit to school funding caused by sequestration would be bigger than just the direct federal funding to schools. The state's education funding would be reduced too.

Sixty percent of the education trust is funded by state income tax and sales tax revenue. Less work means less income tax. Less income tax means less spending. So on top of the millions in direct federal funding Alabama schools would lose with sequestration, there would be a big hit to state school funding too.

"If you've got folks getting less money, then, obviously, there's going to be less coming into the education trust fund, which will then have another severe impact on education," said Fowler. "Obviously, our first concern is for those parents, and, secondly, we would be very concerned about the funding of education in Alabama."

We have seen the fiscal cliff. Now we're on the doorstep of sequestration, but there is an even bigger potential crisis looming that would hit schools even harder. If Congress doesn't pass a spending bill by March 27, the federal government funding would basically shut down altogether.

"There would be no money. The bank would be closed. The government is closed. And there's no way we could even get the funds that were coming to the school district that were cut because the bank is closed. So those are some things that are very scary and that we're worried a lot about," said Fowler.

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