Legislative Memo: Sequestration by the Numbers

On March 1st, a set of across-the-board spending cuts, called sequestration, took effect.  Sequestration includes a total of $1.2 trillion in budget cuts to be spread over nine years,and to be equally divided between defense and non-defense spending. During the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year, $85 billion in cuts are scheduled to take effect.  These cuts will impact everything from defense spending to education funding. Specifically, in the case of music education, the Title I monies that can be used to provide access to music education for America’s most disadvantaged students, will be greatly impacted.

According to Shannon Kelly, director, advocacy capacity building and communications, for the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), with a projected overall cut of 5% to all non-defense discretionary funding, Title I funds will be reduced  in the neighborhood of $725 million for FY 2013 (2013 – 2014 school year). Arts in Education funding will also continue to be threatened during the upcoming budget process. Before sequestration began arts in education funding was roughly $25 million.

Kelly reminded readers in a recent blog post that sequestration was adopted with the idea that such arbitrary spending cuts would force Congress to adopt a more strategic deficit reduction plan. “Discretionary programs account for a very small percentage of overall Federal spending, yet are the sole target for sequestration spending cuts,” she said. “Many of the cuts directly affect the most disadvantaged segments of the country’s population, and will also reduce spending on programs for which, according to polls, a majority of voters actually support increased investment—such as education.”

The Washington Post used data from the White House to create an overview of spending cuts on a state-by-state basis as well as by categories such as public health and the military to teachers and schools.

Since its founding in 1974, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has produced independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process. The CBO compiled a list of sequestration questions and answers in a Web post entitled “Automatic Reductions in Government Spending — aka Sequestration,” It answers such questions as“How Big Are the Automatic Spending Reductions in 2013 and 2014?”  Read the CBO overview.


Participating in Policy Dialogues

NAfME has followed sequestration issue closely, working with other arts education and education groups.In February, NAfME and 49 other member organizations of the Committee for Education Funding (CEF) met at the White House complex with Carmel Martin from the U.S. Department of Education, Roberto Rodriguez from the White House Domestic Policy Council Staff, Martha Coven from Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and Stephanie Valencia, Brad Jenkins and Kyle Lierman from the Office of Public Engagement (OPE).

Christopher Woodside, assistant executive director, NAfME center for advocacy and public affairs said, “It is very important that NAfME maintain access to these high-level education policy dialogues, as well as to key decision makers in Washington, DC, and around the United States.  As such, we will continue to play an active role in CEF and with many other coalitions that aid us in making our case for music.”

The discussions, among other topics, explored the impact on education of the then-looming federal budget sequester. Administration officials said the education community can help make a case for education’s impact by providing local data and local stories about the impact of the cuts.

NAfME’s Share Your Story campaign has been successful in gathering such information to share with elected officials and the campaign continues to do so at advocacy.nafme.org/share-your-story.

NAfME’s Woodside said the Association is “particularly concerned about the impact of the sequester on Title I funding that goes to support music education programs in America’s most disadvantaged communities. We will continue to provide the White House and Congress with information that helps makes the case for protecting these funds and the future of comprehensive education all across the nation.”

Follow this topic and other NAfME advocacy efforts, including the “Share Your Story” Project.

Roz Fehr, NAfME managing editor for news, March 7, 2013. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)