WASHINGTON, D.C. — As federal agencies begin budget cuts for social programs, educational services and other essentials that meet the needs of the constituencies they have committed to serve, Hispanics, African Americans and other of the nation’s poorest families are bracing themselves for the impact. That is the growing consensus among affected federal departments and involved public and private social service groups.
This month President Obama signed a series of automatic across-the-board spending cuts known as sequester. The action came just hours after he met with congressional leaders representing both parties when they failed to reach a budget agreement. The budget cuts impact such social programs as Medicaid, Medicare and early childhood education.
25,000 Latino preschoolers to be affected by budget cuts—for starters
The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of more than 30 Hispanic organizations, states that 25,000 Latino preschoolers are expected to be dropped from Head Start programs, which provide school readiness tools, laying the foundation for educational attainment. Another 1.2 million children will no longer receive extra help in math and reading, and some 270,000 adults and teens dropped from job training programs.
NHLA executive director Hector Sanchez says sequestration will seriously affect vital federal funding of such programs as early child-care. “Obviously, cuts in those programs will affect the most vulnerable families and children…disproportionately hurting students of color, particularly Latinos. It’s going to affect the programs of English-language learners and students attending high poverty schools.”
Education Secretary Arne Duncan blogged, “The amount of money being cut from education programs and Head Start is the equivalent of about 40,000 teachers’ jobs.”
The sequester, set forth in the Budget Control Act of 2011, specifies mandatory across-the-board budget cuts in areas ranging from the Department of Defense to school funding if a deficit plan was not agreed on by March 1. The deadline expired and the president was required to slash $85 billion in spending for the rest of the 2013 fiscal year through September.
With no agreement between Congress and the White House, the reductions will continue each year until the end of 2021, totaling $1.2 trillion. Nearly $3 billion would be cut in education alone.
Millions suffer repercussion of budget cuts
In October 2011, more than 12.4 million Hispanics were enrolled in the nation’s public schools pre-K through 12th grade. Overall, Hispanic students make up nearly one-quarter (23.9 percent) of the nation’s public school enrollment, up from one-fifth (19.9 percent) in 2005 and 16.7 percent in 2000.
National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials executive director Arturo Vargas emphasizes, “Anything that affects children affects Latinos more than non-Latinos simply because we are a larger share of America’s children.”
The best advice, NHLA’s Sanchez says, is for the community to “push back on sequestration.” NHLA has launched a campaign to rally against sequestration’s effects.
“It’s really important to be together, united in protecting all these programs that are critical for the future of the nation.”
(Basilisa Alonso reports for Hispanic Link News Service in Washington, D.C. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter: @basilisaalonso)