York County school officials are waiting to see exactly how automatic federal budget cuts could be felt locally.
Unless Congress takes action, the automatic cuts, called sequestration, will take effect on Friday, March 1. The White House released state-by-state estimates on the impact earlier this week, saying Pennsylvania will lose about $26.4 million for primary and secondary education, and about $21.4 million for staff that help students with disabilities. Head Start programs would also be affected.
While school officials are watching the process closely, several I spoke with recently say it’s too soon to know exactly what will happen.
Pennsylvania Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller said in an email that the department is still awaiting details from the federal government on the exact impacts.
“What I can tell you is that sequestration would not have an immediate impact on schools in PA,” he said. “Any federal cuts would not be felt until the 2013-14 school year.”
Jay Himes, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, also said Pennsylvania schools won’t be feeling the impact immediately. The way money trickles down from the federal government means the effects would likely be in 2013-14, he said.
Himes said the most significant programs expected to be impacted are Title 1, funds used to help needy students, and IDEA, funds for special education. But there aren’t local impact numbers yet.
“We’re sort of all anxiously awaiting what hopefully isn’t a bad situation in terms of school finance made worse,” Himes said.
Ron Dyer, Dallastown Area School District superintendent, said that since effects are expected for next year, it puts districts in a bind as they try to prepare. But luckily, final budgets are not yet finished.
“We are tracking this carefully, but we do not have numbers,” Dyer said.
George Ioannidis, business manager for Spring Grove Area School District
, too, said the district is watching the situation, though without any real numbers. He is concerned about the possible effects on IDEA funding, he said, and isn’t sure what will happen with other programs.
“We are monitoring it,” he said.
West York Area School District Supt. Emilie Lonardi said it’s too early to know what will happen. But if the cuts hit the programs that help needy and special education students, she said, it will be “devastating.”
More about the sequestration will likely be discussed in the coming months, as school districts work to develop final budgets for 2013-14 by the end of June.
“As the picture gets hopefully clearer, as opposed to muddier, we’ll have some more precise information, some more definitive information so that we’re not trying to do budgets with one hand tied behind our back, putting business managers in the awkward situation of having to guess,” Himes said.