Local Districts, Students Will Absorb the Impact If Congress Jumps Off the Fiscal Cliff

The fiscal cliff is looming over public education nationwide, and local districts may lose millions of dollars in federal school funding. Image credit: mrincredible / 123RF Stock Photo

If you missed our post earlier this week about how a leap off the fiscal cliff could affect public education in Kansas and Missouri, please click HERE.

Earlier this week, the KC Education Enterprise asked all 28 local districts about the impact sequestration would have on their budgets if the U.S. Congress decides to jump off the fiscal cliff. Representatives from half of the districts replied.

Of those 12, seven spoke out on behalf of students. The rest either referred me to their respective state boards of education or otherwise equivocated in their responses.

In defense of the equivocating districts, we did put them on the spot. The situation is entirely out of their control, depending on whether Congress — in U.S. Rep. Mitch McConnell’s words — decides to engage in “Thelma and Louise economics.” And if Congress does jump, no one is absolutely certain about what the dollar impact would be to the budgets of local districts, although Tom Harkin — chairman of the U.S. Senate subcommittee that appropriates federal funds for education — last summer did release a report estimating the fiscal impact on the states.

Among those speaking out on behalf of students, the spokesperson for Center School District on the Missouri side of the state line put it most cogently.

“The most educationally fragile students, those students with special needs and those students in poverty, would be affected the most because those are the programs funded by federal dollars,” Kelly Wachel told me. “Federal funds are designed to help the students with extra learning needs. And at our Early Childhood Center, it is 70% funded by Head Start, which is a federally funded program.  Any sequestration of federal funds would have an immediate impact on early childhood education. Also, federal funds support our community’s social programs.  Social programs like food banks, tutoring centers, LINC, etc. are our students’ safety nets.  If sequestration occurs, these social programs that provide our kids’ access to safety nets would be affected.  The impact goes beyond our schools, it affects our whole community.”

Spokespeople for the Blue Valley, Olathe and Spring Hill districts in Kansas as well as the North Kansas City and Platte County districts in Missouri also spoke out in defense of student services. The North Kansas City response even went into detail on the potential budgetary impact of sequestration.

A spokesperson for the De Soto district in Kansas mentioned student needs while also addressing the needs of teachers.

“We have teachers who need to be uplifted every day,” Alvie Cater said. “They have enough to focus on to maximize their efforts without having to worry about whether we will have financial support to take care of them day to day. In spite of the challenges, we will rise above to our job.”

The educational future of many vulnerable young people in the Kansas City area as well as the job prospects of some of their teachers depends on whether President Barack Obama and Republican members of the U.S. Congress can come to a compromise regarding taxation and sequestration of federal funds by the end of this year. These national leaders are scheduled to meet later today. And local administrators of public school districts will be listening closely to the news. This is news that will directly impact them, their students, their staff members and our entire metropolitan-area community.

As Kevin Gullett, the chief financial officer for a Kansas special education consortium, put it: “I remain hopeful that the fiscal cliff will be avoided at the federal level.”

Specific responses from area districts are as follows:



Blue Valley

Bonner Springs/Edwardsville

De Soto


Kansas City




Shawnee Mission

Spring Hill




Blue Springs


Excelsior Springs

Fort Osage


Hickman Mills


Kansas City

Lee’s Summit


North Kansas City

According to their spokesperson Mary Jo Burton:

The North Kansas City Schools Federal Fund allocation for the 2012-13 school year is:

Title 1  $2,953,061 (Supports instruction in schools with high free/reduced lunch counts)

Title II  $469,001  (Professional Development for Teachers)

Title III – Imm  $54,437  (Supports instruction for immigrants)

TIII – LEP  $213,199  (Supports English language instruction for non-native speakers)

Perkins Grant  $237,855  (Supports vocational education)

Special Education – Part B Entitlement  $3,420,393  (Supports Special Ed Students)

Grand total  $7,347,946

If there is a 8.2% across the board reduction, NKC Schools may be short $602,532, which will impact our programming for the 2013-14 school year.  We will be forced to reduce our level of service within each program to the level of funding provided by the Federal Government.  We cannot make up the difference from local funds as it would be considered “surplanting” and we would be out of compliance with Federal regulations.

Park Hill

Platte County




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