School districts bracing for dramatic sequester cuts - abc27 WHTM

School districts bracing for dramatic sequester cuts

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The state teachers union says it is watching the possibility of a sequester in Washington very closely because it would hit Pennsylvania schools particularly hard given the billion dollars in public education cuts made to education over the last two years under Governor Corbett.

Wythe Keever, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, says federal cuts would hit poor districts like Harrisburg and York the hardest because Title I money would be reduced across the board. Grants from Title I are awarded to low-income schools to fund everything from reading programs, ESL, tutoring and special education.

"When they lose educational opportunities, whether it's for one year or beyond, there's no do-over," Keever said. "So, we all have an interest to make sure students get adequate and equitable opportunities and avoid the impact that sequester would have."

Harrisburg School District is already facing an $11-million deficit this year, and officials say further cuts would make running the district nearly impossible.

"We have more kids with behavior problems -- how are we going to deal with this situation?" board member Ruth Cruz said.

Cruz recently attended a conference in Washington and met with Senator Bob Casey about how the cuts would affect the district. She said if the sequester happens, they'd be forced to cut social workers, guidance counselors, family liaisons, psychologists and summer and after-school programs.

"Right now we don't have full day kindergarten -- just half. This is something we had to do last school year," Cruz said. "Plus we cut 40 percent of our administration and 50 percent of our staff. We cannot cut more."

Sequestration would also affect Head Start nationwide. An estimated 70,000 pre-schoolers would be booted from the program if no deal is reached.

Mechanicsburg mother Michelle Smith says she is worried about her five-year-old daughter's status at Capital Area Head Start.

"We have a little over 700 on the waiting list for Head Start and a little over 200 on the waiting list for early Head Start ---- so we have just as many kids on waiting lists as we do in the program," Smith said. "This is effecting the innocent -- the children."

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