MMD: The US Federal Shutdown’s Uncertain Effects on Schools

http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachstern/268204262/Here in Georgetown, there’s no getting away from talk about the US federal government shutdown, but its effects (real and potential) go far beyond the borders of the federal district. As we coast into Day 7 on this rainy Monday, we thought we’d share some of the headlines on how the shutdown has, will, and might affect education institutions as well as the students and families they serve. If you’d prefer to take a pass on tales of the leaden skies overhanging us here in DC, you can skip to the end for some silver lining.

The Doom and Gloom from Last Week

Shutdown | The Latest on the Shutdown (Politico)
While schools still scramble to sort out funding issues resulting from the sequester (remember that?), the shutdown brings its own set of challenges. Much of the Department of Education is laid off for the moment, and the major worries on Day 1 were for the federally-funded Head Start program, which “promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to 5 from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social and emotional development.” By Day 2, 4,000 Head Start seats had become unavailable to families. At the same time the military service academies were canceling some classes and doubling up on class sizes to accommodate the “non-essential” furloughed civilian faculty. Other colleges and universities reported problems clearing financial aid documents for students, while technical assistance for federal grants to K-12 schools is MIA.

Head Start program in Massachusetts nearly shut down the day after school year started (WaPo)
The number of children in Head Start programs potentially affected by the shutdown as of Day 1? 19,000, in 23 programs across 11 states.

Dozens of D.C. nonprofits serving children lose funding during government shutdown (WaPo)
Do you know what happens at the start of the fiscal year? Money is disbursed to fund the activities of lots of organizations. What happens when the federal government shuts down? If the activity isn’t “essential”, no one cuts a check. Thirty-seven groups that run after-school programs for children in D.C. are short $2.25 million for the time being, and some of them won’t be able to pay their staff. Of, course, the larger issue could be that the District ultimately gets its budget approval from — you guessed it! — Congress, leaving a city of more than 600,000 (and over 40,000 students in public K-12 schools) in a somewhat precarious situation.

Impact to state education unclear as federal shutdown interrupts $22 billion in federal funds, furloughs most federal education workers (AL.com)
What’s that number again? $22 billion. Fortunately, that money probably isn’t too crucial. What’s that you say? The money is for programs “that provide federal dollars to low-income school districts, library and textbook resources, and resources for special education and disabled children” as well as “food to some schools”? Oh…well, then.

How Is The Government Shutdown Affecting College Students? (Slate.com)
Wholly aside from issues with federally-backed student loans, many students are hit hard across the board. With working, “non-traditional” students now a large part of the US student population, the impact on Head Start or the larger economy can hit hard. “For the neediest college students, the government shutdown can force hard choices with higher-ed consequences,” with at least one working, learning mother having to “take out more student loans to pay for child care in the wake of the shutdown, which has forced the closing of nine Head Start programs in the Tallahassee area.”

Government shutdown: What it would mean for schools and colleges (MLive)
Okay, okay. It’s not all doom and gloom. The $22 billion in federal funds should get where it needs to go, and the Ed Department has a plan to cover some of its critical functions. Still, if this thing goes longer than a week (like, you know, by tomorrow), it could “‘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.'”

The Good News!

Open education, alternative credentials, prior learning assessments, and more are increasingly on the radar; shutdown be darned, one of our staff will be on Capitol Hill today to dive into these topics…

The College Degree of the Future (The Congressional E-Learning Caucus)
What does the changing nature of the degree mean for US federal education policy? Our Strategic Initiatives Manager, Jeff Davidson, is joining a panel with John Ebersole (Excelsior College), Tammy Johns, (Strategy and Talent Corporation), and Michael Staton (Learn Capital) to look at that question. The panel, moderated by Andrew Kelly of the Center on Higher Education Reform, AEI, is happening up on the Hill (government shutdown be darned).

Photo credit: zachstern via photopin CC BY-NC-ND

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *