Schools face cuts from ‘fiscal cliff’
TUPELO (AP) — Mississippi schools could lose about $53.9 million in federal education money, according to a report released by the National Education Association, if Congress doesn’t stop a package of budget cuts scheduled to take place Jan. 2.
That total includes more than $15.2 million in Title I aid, money given to help schools with students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Nationally, more than $1.1 billion could be cut from the $14.5 billion program.
The cuts are part of the so-called fiscal cliff, a package of tax increases and federal spending cuts that will occur Jan. 2 if lawmakers don’t act to avoid them. Among the cuts are 8.2 percent reductions in most programs funded by the United States Department of Education.
Districts have flexibility in how they use their Title I dollars. The Tupelo School District, for instance, uses most of its money to fund its four-year-old preschool. The district is currently trying to expand that program, but could be forced to alter those plans if Title I dollars are cut.
Tupelo Superintendent Gearl Loden said school districts already impacted by reduced state funding would have difficulty absorbing another reduction.
“Federal cuts at this time would make meeting the needs of our students even more challenging,” Loden said.
Most of the cuts to school districts would not take effect until July 1. Nationally, about 12 percent of school districts’ budgets are funded by federal dollars, but that total varies from school system to school system.
Districts also could be forced to pull from other programs to replace money they would lose under the automatic cuts.
For instance, Mississippi could lose more than $9.8 million in special education money, but would still be legally required to offer many of the existing services.
Also included in the NEA’s estimate would be a reduction of $14.8 million to the state’s Head Start pre-K programs for low-income children.
Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://djournal.com