A shutdown of the federal government now seems all but certain if Congress doesn’t come to an 11th-hour agreement today. And it will hit the Education Department hard. About 90 percent of the department’s 4,225 employees will be immediately furloughed, and most won’t come back until the funding crisis is resolved, even if the shutdown lasts longer than a week. But many schools and colleges won’t feel an immediate effect if the funding crisis is resolved quickly. Federal dollars will continue to flow to both K-12 and higher education. A longer shutdown, though, could lead to a big paperwork backlog and problems for schools, colleges and students that receive federal funds.
Brokedown Congress appears likely to spend the weekend attempting to keep the government from shutting down and the U.S. from defaulting on its debt. The sticking point this time isn’t schools. Instead, education is getting caught in the crosshairs. Republicans want to defund, or at least delay implementation of, the president’s landmark health care overhaul law (the Affordable Care Act to its fans and “ObamaCare” to its critics).
What does the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad budget situation mean for schools?
From D.C.’s Contingency Plan (via Washington Post):
A protracted delay in Department obligations and payments beyond one week would severely curtail the cash flow to school districts, colleges and universities, and vocational rehabilitation agencies that depend on the Department’s funds to support their services. For example, many school districts receive more than 20 percent of their funds from Department-funded programs.
From NBC re: Head Start:
A small number of Head Start programs, about 20 out of 1,600 nationally, would feel the impact right away. The federal Administration for Children and Families says grants expiring about Oct. 1 would not be renewed. Over time more programs would be affected. Several of the Head Start programs that would immediately feel the pinch are in Florida. It’s unclear if they would continue serving children.
From the National Center for Learning Disabilities:
If the government shuts down, all non-essential government employees stop working. This includes the majority of employees at the U.S. Department of Education.
Because schools are generally operated at the local and state level, your local public school will most likely continue to operate and your child’s teachers will continue to work. However, schools will face difficult decisions as real time federal funding in certain areas such as Head Start (early childhood education) stops. For lump sum payments under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a government shutdown will cause extreme uncertainty going forward, with schools unable to plan for future expenses. All of this is on top of the damaging effects of cuts already caused by sequestration in the 2013-14 school year.