With the sequester now a reality, the debate continues regarding the totality of spending cuts coming down the pike.
However, there’s little argument education is going to feel the brunt of the budget reduction. More so, for the Latino community it means more crowded classrooms, less housing assistance help, smaller unemployment checks and less nutrition assistance.
“The good news is things don’t happen real fast, and the bad news is things don’t happen real fast,” National Education Association (NEA) Vice President Lily Eskelsen told VOXXI. “Very serious consequences are going to happen, and it’s going to hit our most vulnerable populations.”
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Director of Education Policy Luis Torres also told VOXXI that a disproportionate number of Latino students will be affected by the sequester.
“There would be at least 48,000 fewer young kids who would have access to Head Start and more than 30 percent of those students are Latino,” Torres said. “That’s a major impact for us. Also we have about 200,000 ELL [English language learners] students who would lose access to basic support and resources in their classrooms, and about 80 percent of those students are Latino students. And there are about 600,000 women and children who are enrolled in WIC [Women, Infants and Children], who would lose access to that program and get less benefits because of the sequester.”
Torres added 61,000 students would lose access to the TRIO programs, while another 57,000 students would no longer be a part of Gear Up.
Latino advocacy speaks up on the sequester
Last week on behalf of the Hispanic Education Coalition (HEC), LULAC and the Mexican American Legal Defense Education Fund (MALDEF) issued a joint letter to the House and Senate leadership regarding the Budget Control Act’s automatic sequestration provision. Both LULAC and MALDEF are co-chairs of the HEC, which also includes 20 organizations focused on improving educational opportunities and outcomes for more than the 54 million Hispanics living in the United States and Puerto Rico.
The letter noted an estimated 1,181,600 fewer students nationwide would be served by Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and 9,910 educators and school personnel would lose their jobs. Hispanic students make up 36 percent of the students served by Title I.
“We anticipate that California and Texas may be hit the hardest in terms of actual people losing benefits,” Torres said. “That’s where we have our larger bulk of the Latino population.”
Torres also pointed out that although the federal government’s share of education spending at the state level is about 10 percent, 60 to 70 percent of that figure goes to supplement the education of low income students and ELL students.
“The impact on those students, many of them Latino, is going to be compounded by the sequestration process,” Torres said. “We argue that it’s a disproportionate effect on the Latino community because we have both kids who are benefiting from these programs and likely the first targets of the sequestration process.”
Overall Eskelsen said the sequester will be tantamount to taking a meat axe to the federal budget’s education programs. More so, she said she’s lost all faith as Congress as an institution.
“What we’re dealing with is the most dysfunctional Congress anybody can imagine,” Eskelsen said. “They put this thing together that was supposed to be so bad that no one would ever pull the trigger. Look at all of the vulnerable children and seniors and poor that would be hit and hit hard. Look at all of the jobs that would be lost of federal workers. No one could imagine that anybody would let it happen. Yet political games are being played and little kids are in the crossfire here.”