The looming sequestration that is slated to cut military spending across the board will also cost Virginia about $48 million in federal funds for pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade education, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine told educators Friday in Alexandria.
Speaking to local school officials and state education advocates at the Campagna Center in Old Town, Kaine, a Democrat, said the cuts would also eliminate 7,000 Head Start slots in the state. If the March 1 sequester goes through, 10,000 teacher jobs would be at risk nationwide, as well as funding for up to 7,200 special education teachers, aides and staff, according to Kaine’s office.
Kaine, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, said he maintained hope sequestration could be avoided.
“I hear a number of members of Congress saying, ‘I guess we should just let the sequester go into effect.’ And I just think it’s a ridiculous abdication of responsibility,” he said.
Roundtable participants told Kaine that schools are already struggling to provide free and reduced-price meals, hire enough English Language Learners teachers, provide adequate career/technical education and meet current budgets. Campagna Center CEO Tammy Mann told Kaine the center is running a deficit already this year, sequestration aside.
“It’s not as if these programs, in many ways, are actually covering the full cost of what it takes,” Mann said. “So, it’s a double whammy.”
Meg Gruber, president of the Virginia Education Association, told Kaine that programs under the microscope of sequestration have already seen budget cuts.
“It all goes back to that big picture, for me, of what we want to be in Virginia and America,” Gruber said. “Who do we want to be as citizens? Do we really want to make sure that everyone’s being taken care of, our children are being invested in?”
The federal government has serious budget challenges, Kaine said, but it needs to raise revenue on top of cutting spending.
“I don’t think we need to wave a magic wand and solve the budgetary challenge in one fell swoop, but I do think we need to define a path where we can get back more toward budgetary responsibility,” he said. “But I definitely believe that’s it’s wrong to do it all through cuts.
“If there’s a balance sheet problem, and there is, then we’ve got to fix both sides of the balance sheet.”