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News Brief

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson Testifies before Senate Over the Impact of Sequestration and Funding Cuts to Education

WASHINGTON, DC - North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson testified in front of the U.S .Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee today about concerns over the impact of sequestration and drastic funding cuts to education. Atkinson testified in opposition to automatic funding cuts that will be detrimental to education reform occurring across the country, and outlined the immediate need for clear guidance from the federal government on how sequestration will work, if it goes into effect on Jan. 2 2013.

"Chief state school officers across the country are focused on education reform efforts such as implementing the common core state standards, developing new assessments to better gauge student learning, and developing new teacher and leader evaluation systems to help drive improvements across our education workforce," said Atkinson. "We have taken on these tasks in the best interests of our students even during some of the toughest economic times."

Atkinson referenced a recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities highlights that the struggling economy impairs state ability to fund services. States have already faced tough choices to close a combined $540 billion in budget shortfalls between 2009 and 2012. Moreover, according to the report, the 2007 recession caused the largest collapse in state revenues on record: as of the first quarter of 2012, state revenues remained 5.5 percent below pre-recession levels.  Simultaneously state education obligations grow, with states expecting to educate 540,000 more K-12 students.

Atkinson added that 16% of North Carolina's education budget comes from federal funding, such that a 7-10% across-the-board cut projected for sequestration would dramatically stifle reform efforts underway. Atkinson highlighted how sequestration cuts would impact reform efforts to five programs in North Carolina that alone would affect over 205,000 students and may result in over 600 jobs losses. Nationally sequestration would yield a cut of over $4.5 billion dollars which would impact nearly 9 million students and 80,000 potential job losses.

"We need to focus primarily on proven strategies and not continue to fund programming that does not produce results or serve our student's needs," said Atkinson. "We will be your partners in any thoughtful process to improve the return on investment in federal education funding...Education is but a tiny fraction of the federal budget but with enormously high impact on our nation's future. Sequestration was not caused by the failure of our teachers or our students, yet it is they who will suffer the most if sequestration does go into effect. Students and educators are not to blame for our nation's fiscal problems, and they deserve better."

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The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.