Education in the Media
Sequestration Could Spell Cuts for N.J. Schools, Head Start PreschoolsFebruary 25, 2013
NEWARK — More than 300 educators from Head Start early education programs gathered at an Atlantic City hotel Monday for a training conference. But between workshops on "Helping families make financial decisions" and "Bullying in preschool?" talk was about sequestration.
"Every time there's a break, that's all everyone wants to know _ what's the news?" said Veronica Ray, president of the Region 2 Head Start Association, which hosted the event. "It is the talk of the conference."
The looming cuts, if they occur, are expected to hit New Jersey's public schools and Head Start classrooms. David Sciarra, executive director of the Newark-based Education Law Center, said one analysis said special education could lose more than $18 million in New Jersey; Head Start programs could be cut by $7.6 million; and Title 1 funds _ which pay for basic skills programs for poor and struggling children _ could be cut by nearly $16 million. Other education programs could see cuts, too.
"Many cuts in these programs will have a negative impact on the most vulnerable children," Sciarra said.
Numbers released by the White House differed somewhat, but also painted a grim picture. The White House said about 160 teacher and teacher aide jobs would be at risk across 60 schools in New Jersey ; special education would be reduced by about $17 million; and Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for about 1,300 children.
New Jersey receives about $142 million in federal Head Start funding, Ray said.
The New Jersey School Boards Association said the cuts could be even higher — looking at the entire 2013-14 year, the association calculated New Jersey could lose $73 million for K-12 education programs, plus another $11.7 million in Head Start funding.
Local school boards have expressed concern. More than 90 adopted resolutions asking Congress and the Administration to resolve the matter, said Frank Belluscio, School Boards Association Acting Deputy Director/Communications Director.
Federal funding supports about 3.1 percent of K-12 education spending in New Jersey, compared to an average of 10.1 percent among the 50 states, Belluscio said.
The state Department of Education declined to comment on the White House numbers, or answer questions on the proposed cuts.
In western New Jersey, where NORWESCAP runs Head Start for almost 500 children in Hunterdon, Warren, Sussex and Morris counties, concerns ran high.
"I know our program will be affected, I don't know exactly how. I can't imagine we could take a significant cut and not reduce enrollment," said Lois Henseler, director of Head Start programs there. She called the potential cuts "devastating to the families who are going to be denied the services."
Ray, of the Region 2 association, is also CEO of the Leaguers Head Start programs in Newark, Elizabeth and several other cities. After already experiencing layoffs and salary cuts, she said cutting the number of children enrolled is the only thing left.
"We' re devastated. Some of these children come from homeless shelters," she said. "How do you decide which percent of children don't come back any more?"
Linden School Superintendent Rocco Tomazic was also trying to sort out the possible cuts. His district has a number of programs funded with federal money, from school psychologists and social workers, to basic skills classes and a high school ROTC program.
He said school officials are also waiting on another big piece of their financial picture: Gov. Chris Christie's budget address on Tuesday.
"I have no specific news," Tomazic said about the sequestration cuts. "We just get these general warnings, which raise anxiety but don't give you anything specific."