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Assessing across-the-board cuts | Guest Column, Derek Kilmer

It’s been more than two weeks since the reckless across-the-board cuts began to take effect and yet U.S. House leadership has failed to bring any proposal to the floor that would replace these senseless cuts. While frustrating, I can’t and won’t accept that Washington is too broken to fix this problem and I will continue to work until we have a solution.

In the meantime, the effects of these cuts are beginning to be felt across our region. Last month, the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard canceled a job fair that would have hired hundreds of new workers. Now, thousands of workers in our region including folks at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, across Naval Base Kitsap and at the shipyard are trying to manage the prospect of furloughs and a substantial cut in pay.

These deep cuts will also severely affect a number of school districts in our area — and will have a major effect on those school districts that happen to serve a high number of military families and children. These districts are particularly vulnerable because they receive a significant amount of federal funds, known as Impact Aid. In 1950, Congress set up the Impact Aid program in order to help those school districts with limited tax bases on lands owned by federal or tribal governments.

Unless Congress gets its act together and passes a solution, these school districts with many students from military families are going to face the loss of a major source of income. Schools that have faced years of inadequate funding now must eliminate summer school programs for struggling first and second graders, reduce intervention opportunities for students at all levels that are not meeting standards, and will be unable to implement an updated K-5 reading curriculum.

While all students in these schools will begin to see the impacts of these cuts in the summer months, I’m concerned that the impact could be particularly severe for those students with parents who have been deployed abroad. For those children, their school plays a vital role in supporting and tracking their progression. Without adequate intervention programs, who will make sure our students are on track?

And with all of the budget uncertainty our schools are facing, this may not just be a temporary problem. Schools need to budget for the entire year. They need to know whether they can still rely on this important partnership with the federal government.

While our nation’s budget problems must be fixed, it will not be solved by taking away basic educational services from our families who have given their lives to our country. We must build our educational systems to compete with the national and global challenges of the future, not tear them down. Preserving funding for the Impact Aid program is a step in the right direction and a step we must take to ensure we are protecting every student, in every community.

I am working to push my colleagues and the House leadership to get rid of these non-strategic, un-targeted and painful cuts and replace them with a balanced, long-term plan to get people back to work and put our nation’s fiscal house in order.

 

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