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Sequestering Florida’s Children And Their Schools

| March 4, 2013

And the band played on. (Tiffany Bailey)

And the band played on. (Tiffany Bailey)

By Katie Hansen

The across-the-board federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, will slow our economic recovery and cost upwards of a million jobs nationally. But here in Florida, the sequestration knife cuts especially deep, particularly in the already underfunded field of public education.

katie hansen fceaEven before sequestration, education spending in this country was set to decline to its lowest levels on record. Now as a result of the automatic sequester cuts, education funding will be slashed by $3 billion nationwide, 7.4 million students could lose essential services and up to 50,000 educators could lose their jobs. Florida will lose an estimated $54.5 million in funding for primary and secondary education alone.

These aren’t thoughtful budget cuts designed to eliminate government inefficiency. Expect to see real consequences for Florida’s students, teachers, schools and our economy.

The White House estimates that in Florida alone, more than 1,100 teacher and support staff jobs are at risk. Approximately 95,000 fewer students will be served and 130 fewer schools will receive funding. Florida will lose an estimated $31.1 million in funds for 380 teachers, support staff and other personnel who help children with disabilities. An estimated 6,200 fewer low income students in Florida will receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and around 1,700 fewer students will get work-study jobs that help them pay for college. Head Start and Early Head Start services will be eliminated for 2,700 children in Florida, reducing access to critical early education.

To put these draconian cuts into a real-life context, expect schools to have fewer teachers and support professionals. Tutors will become less available for struggling students. Schools may be unable to buy updated instructional materials. Pre-school programs will be less robust or cut back altogether. Students with working parents may lose their afterschool programs, and students dealing with personal or mental health issues may lose counselors. Fall ill at school? Don’t expect a school nurse to be available.

The impact of sequestration cuts on Florida’s economy will ripple far beyond teachers, students and their families. A 2012 George Mason University study estimated that Florida could lose around 42,000 defense jobs from sequestration cuts alone. Cuts to critical health programs like Medicaid and Medicare will hit Florida especially hard, and preventative health programs will be slashed, curbing patient access to everything from cancer screenings to flu vaccinations. State lawmakers including Senate President Don Gaetz have warned that sequestration cuts will take a big toll on the state budget as well.

Since the start of fiscal year 2011, Congress and the President have enacted numerous pieces of legislation that reduce current and future budget deficits — especially the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. Total deficit reduction so far has totaled $2.4 trillion, with most of that coming from spending cuts. Meanwhile, the tax code is rife with special breaks that disproportionately benefit high-income households and corporations. Moreover, the current approach where government lurches from economic crisis to crisis creates uncertainty and is further stifling our still struggling economy.

Simply put, Washington lawmakers should not balance the budget on the backs of students, teachers and low- and moderate-income Americans while our tax code is rife with loopholes and special breaks that benefit the wealthiest households and large corporations.

Katie Hansen, a teacher at Indian Trails Middle School, is president of the Flagler County Educators Association. Reach her by email here.

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16 Responses for “Sequestering Florida’s Children And Their Schools”

  1. Karma says:

    When I read stories like this I wonder why the Democrats did not plug all these “Loopholes” in the tax code in 2009 and 2010 when they had complete control of both the house and Senate. An Oversight?
    A few stories prior to this one was about the post office going broke without government help. Now the school system is going to fold and the “Children” will be cheated out a grand education from the public school system.LOL
    I suspect there will be a story from the Flagler airport and EOC saying they can no longer respond or maintain their current level of service. LOL again. The world could stop as we know it with these radical cuts the President ask for in 2011. Don’t believe me? WATCH

  2. Karma says:

    Reduce the current budget deficit? Here is the debt clock, it sure looks as the numbers are going higher. Is may reality different then the writers. Maybe the teacher should tell her students that each child in the classroom owes the government approximately $53,000 already with no end sight. To put that in terms a middle school child may understand, that’s about 530 new bikes.

  3. Stevie says:

    Sorry Katie I don’t believe you or the President or the wannabe mainstream media on this issue.

    Maybe it is time to separate the STATE out of the school system and let a free market system replace the faux public education system. Then if you don’t want work to save money you can just charge your customers more. Think that will work?

  4. kmedley says:

    “Moreover, the current approach where government lurches from economic crisis to crisis creates uncertainty and is further stifling our still struggling economy”.

    Obama has known about the sequestration and its implications since last year. Yet, rather than instruct the Democratically controlled Senate to pass a budget, he has spent his time promoting a whirlwind, non-stop, cross country campaign. Congress was willing to cede power to Obama and give him the flexibility to move money and prioritize; he chose not to accept this. This sequestration scare is just another tactic designed to make the GOP cave on more tax increases. In my opinion, the President and his administration want the American people to perceive suffering so the outcry will motivate them to contact their representatives to vote for ANY plan that stops the process. The spending levels affected by the sequestration are miniscule when compared to the overall spending and debt ratios. Families across this Nation are implementing real cuts to their household budgets. It seems to me we should expect the same from both Houses of Congress.

  5. johnny taxpayer says:

    I wonder if the author is aware that the The Budget Control Act of 2011 she applauds as successful deficit reduction, is what gave us the Sequestration in the first place?

  6. Outsider says:

    These are all accurate comments. I am just wondering what affect the sequestration will have on the Obama family’s Hawaiian vacation schedule and Obama’s taxpayer funded golf with the stars junkets. If I had to place a bet, I would say none at all.

  7. h&h says:

    This issue is just a big scare tactic and typical of liberal and Chicago politics.. The sky is falling is very juvenial and shows you how out of touch there idiots are..

  8. Lin says:

    Just on the last sentence alone;

    I. If the Democrat President and D-controlled senate had done their jobs and kept their promises and balanced the budget, we wouldn’t have the sequestration (President Obama’s idea in the first place that he said at the debate wouldn’t happen, now running away from the statement)

    2. “on the backs of the students teachers and low- and moderate-income Americans” — who are you Katie Hansen to say when you took your increases and the students’ day was cut 45 minutes — I saw lots of signs on the parkway about YOUR union wages but not signs looking to help the students. I see Flagler Florida and USA scores suffering

    3. Wages are down in Flagler County 14.4% — are your wages down 14.4%? No, your association files lawsuit over paying 3% into your own pension which you will collect at retirement

    4. Yes, our tax code is rife with loopholes and special breaks that benefit the wealthiest households and large corporations — I will agree with that — the public unions being amoung the wealthiest households especially in benefits and pensions which alot of us DON’T HAVE AT ALL. And there are lots of Democrat wealthy household and corporations that should pay taxes (like facebook and GE) — pass a darned buget and close loopholes.

    Important fact: When “educators” were called “teachers” the results were much better, Stop trying to elevate yourself “on the backs of” (I hate this expression) the students and hard-working people of Flagler County who are working hard to educate their children and grandchildren and pay their bills. STOP TRYING TO SEPARATE THE “FACTIONS” — WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER AND YOU ARE DIVIDING NOT HELPING THE SITUATION.

  9. A.S.F. says:

    I would feel sorry for all these so-called patriotic tea-partiers for their willingness to follow any wildly distorted ideas that Fox news feeds them. However, I suspect that their rabid hatred of “liberals” and “unions” and President Obama, in particular, is not only rooted in their fear of something being taken from them but in prejudices that run so deep, they cannot even be honest with themselves about the forces that truly drive them. In the end, their own short-sightedness and paranoia will hurt them the most. It is the runaway extremist factions of the Republican party that ruined their own chances in the last election. It is that cancer that has invaded the heart of the Republican Party that threatens to bring the great body of our government to a screeching halt. We need to start looking beyond our short-sighted self-interests and convenient prejudices and start working for the greater good!

    • Lin says:

      And I feel sorry for all the “Name & Blame”ers who can’t see the truth in the fog of political garbage. Saul Alinsky playbook.

      It is about getting the best education for our kids not politics. That is my point — the writer of the article is using the podium to place blame instead of making concrete suggestions to help the school district and our students. We all want better education. I hate that our schools are getting less money — we need to figure out what we can all do about it. A representative of the educator’s union complaining rather than a true constructive article from a teacher is just a waste of my time.

  10. A.S.F. says:

    If “Lin” would read over his or her last post before the post that I wrote, he or she would have to be reminded that their point #1 was all about blaming democrats and the president, point ” 2 was about blaming the unions, point #4 seemed directed towards “democrat wealthy household(s) and the last paragraph seemed to suggest that teachers have elevated themselves beyond the interests of their students…seems pretty political to me–Typical regressive tea party stuff. I see no conrete solutions that YOU have to offer. If you have some, I’d love to hear them. By the way, the “Saul Alinsky” line pretty much gives you away.

  11. Mark says:

    Stunning, the absence of common sense and a modicum of research present in this article. Don’t know where to begin, but the “across the board federal budget cut” is utter nonsense. So many federal programs are exempt from the sequestration, a truth easily rebutted (nothing to Medicare, Social Security, SNAP, etc.). to continue, simple math applied to many of the claims listed provide a per item result that would require a willful suspension of common sense to begin to believe. I really should do a line-by-line (or perhaps a word-by-word) counter, but suffice to say that an honest analysis as to the effects of sequestration, including the time frame involved, would eviscerate (playing off the article’s hyperbole – “knife cuts”, “slashed”, “draconian”) the propositions put forth. This is a pure propaganda hit piece that…well, just research the author to understand the bias.

    • Wally says:

      Katie, I noticed like you are still for more and more funding for Head Start and Early Head Start that your own Dept. of Health and Human Services in their latest study released in Dec, 2012 says doesn’t work. Any gains in academic achievement are erased by the 3rd Grade! Doesn’t sound like a good investment of the taxpayers money to me. Why not spend it on vocational training in high schools so when students graduate they might actually have a skill that could get them a job and become a taxpayer instead of another person on food stamps like so many recent local high school grads.

  12. Lin says:

    My post was a rebuttal of the points of and characterization of the writer or the article.

    To dismiss my arguments as typically tea-party regressive is pretty funny since I am not a member and am politicaly independent with a small “i”. Our education professionals including the school board, who are well paid and respected are presiding over the downhill slide of our education system and the writer is only hurting the effort of some to help with statements like “on the backs of teachers”. I seriously consider Flaglerlive commentary including the comments that follow the articles. So rebut my posts 1,2, etc. with facts. How can Katie Hansen use “on the backs of teachers” when the Flagler salaries are down 14.4% — seriously? On the backs of the taxpaying folks and our students is more apt.


    Anyone that challenges the system or challenges the righteous or self-righteous public unions or the representatives like Katie are attacked, characterized as hater, tea party blah blah fox news so that the real issue is obscured. And that is that the middle class is being crushed by the demands of public unions and a way-out-of-control spending government. When progessives challenge the system they are painted as heros. I’m neither — just want to help. It is easier to put me in the bag with the tea party regressives than rebut my posts line by line.

    It is the Flagler school system that granted step increases at the same time as cutting the school day for the kids and suing to not pay the 3% for their own pensions. Katie has a great forum here at Flaglerlive and wasted it. My opinion.

  13. Lin says:

    You want suggestions A.S.F. I have a few (was interrupted when writing the other post)

    1. Wally is spot on when suggesting the vocational school. John Fischer mentioned that possibility when running for School Board — haven’t heard anything since. Not every student is destined for college and not every college graduate prospers with the diploma. Lots of good vocational programs across the country where we can get ideas to start a program.

    I am wow’d at the talent coming out of our schools in Music & Art. What about a Music & Art High School like the High School of Music & Art in New York — something for students to aspire to, perhaps nurture a little competition through the auditions to get in. These students also excell academically, keeps them out of trouble, just a good idea all around. Maybe Charter school since we may not have the numbers of students for a regular high school. How about a science & math school for students with that aptitude? Yes, I said the bad word, Charter School — and I’ll hear, yes, well we just closed one that wasn’t working. And that’s the point, if it doesn’t work, we can close it. Will the public schools that aren’t working be closed as well?

    2. School Board should be volunteer, not a paid position. There are too many rubber stamp decisions that are not in the best interests of the students, More money for teachers is not the answer to our problems here. I’m not impressed with the knowledge of the School Board Members with a couple of exceptions. Change is hard, but we need to change things in schools — if we do things like we’ve always done them, we will get the same result. Scores are dropping, let’s fix it. Let’s look at programs that are succeeding in other areas of the country and put those methods to work here. For example, teach how to solve problems, not just the answers to the problems.

    3. Teachers need to stop complaining about their jobs and blaming the parents for everything that goes wrong. They need to use this board in a constructive way. Stop writing articles about how they were emailed during other-than working hours — this shows the students that they are a “bother”, It doesn’t make me respect teachers more, it makes me respect them less. Every time a teacher picks up a computer to put out something to the public it should be with the best interests of the students in mind. Parents have a responsibility to be good parents and teachers have a responsibility to be good teachers — I’d love to hear articles on Flaglerlive about what teachers are doing to elevate their professional skills and how that can translate to helping the students learn. We all know how teachers have a hard job in the classroom with lots of social issues to cope with but the answer is not taking more money from the taxpayers. How does paying more help the students? The School Board seems to work as an extension of the teacher’s union. Our district is WAY top heavy in salaries which brings me to

    4. Transparency — Does the public know what they pay for the education they are getting in Flagler County? I know they don’t. I personally don’t have the time to go the School Board meetings on a regular basis — too busy taking care of grandchildren so their parents can work 3 jobs. There is some info out there from Flaglerlive about salaries but what is one person to do about changing things. I would love to see a comparison — total compensation of all education professionals including admin here in Flagler vs the income of average Flagler County taxpayer. Also would like to see how more dollars paid to such professional does or does not translate into better schools for our kids.

    5. There is a wealth of talent outside of the school here. There could be a giant volunteer program in Flagler with perhaps a VERY small stipend for people willing to tutor students or run small after-hours pgrams to help in music & art, science or any subject.

  14. A.S.F. says:

    Lin–Good suggestions, for the most part! Thank you for making the great points you did! You obviously care a great deal about what happens in the schools. I am not a teacher but I know many teachers who work long hours at school and then participate in after school activities, only to go home to the endless emails that you referred to. They are entitled to their opinions and feelings and also to a private life. Considering all they do and are responsible for, they deserve a decent wage–not just constant criticism. I agree we ALL should get involved. I personally don’t know many people who aren’t working too hard nowadays. Feeling embattled sometimes leads to blaming the “red herring” rather than taking a better road to a well- thought out approach. I hope many of your suggestions are heard beyond the confines of this column. Trying to do more of the right thing with less money is never easy. There will be hard choices ahead for all of us.

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