Sequestration's Impact on Rockford Public Schools

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- In about 7 hours, $85 billion dollars’ worth of automatic spending cuts will officially kick in. The President met with congressional leaders this morning, but a deal was not reached.

Both Republicans and Democrats are still far apart on the issue, and it sounds like a whole lot of finger pointing right now. Republicans do not want to increase taxes and the President is blaming Republicans for not giving in. However, some GOP leaders are taking the negotiating to another level, calling the President’s leadership “pathetic”. Regardless of who is to blame, almost all federal agencies will be affected, including the Pentagon. Leaders say the army alone will have to stop training 80% of its troops.

“What I can’t do is ask middle class families, ask seniors, ask students to bear the entire burden of deficit reduction when we’ve got a bunch of tax loopholes that are benefiting the well-off and the well-connected aren’t contributing to growth, aren’t contributing to our economy.”
Local congresswoman Cheri Bustos and Senator Dick Durbin say the cuts could postpone new federal projects which could mean a delay in opening Thomson prison.

Schools are another one of the many organization that will be affected if those cuts do take place.

According to the National Education Association, the sequestration cuts will total nearly $3-billion dollars for education. That could mean larger class sizes, cuts in funding to education programs, the elimination of after school programs and teacher layoffs.

Rockford Public Schools Interim Superintendent, Dr. Robert Willis says if the cuts take place, the district anticipates less funding for special education and title one reimbursements. He says it’s really too soon to tell just how much they’ll lose and how they’ll cope with the loss fo money. He says the cuts will trickle down through the state and then to the district, so right now it’s just a game of wait and see.

"It's kind of a difficult situation right now when you hear all the news headlines and yet we don't have any details in terms of how we're going to spend the money and how much we'll have to spend,” Willis said.

According to an analysis done by the center on budget and policy priorities in Illinois, title one programs, which help low income families, will lose nearly $33,000 if sequestration takes place. Special education programs could lose nearly $26,000.

Dr. Willis wasn’t really sure whether or not District 205 will have to cut teachers, if the sequester takes place. He did say he doesn’t think the cuts will come but they’ll just have to wait and see.

Willis says schools most likely won’t feel the effects until next school if the cuts take place. So even if the initial cuts take place, if congress can come to some kind of agreement before the school year, schools might not be affected at all.

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