Almost three weeks into the sequester era and the effects of the mandatory budget cuts have become apparent. The pain being caused by this government failure is obvious and growing so it is to be expected that the elected officials are doing their jobs as public servants and are actually serving the public and getting this mess straightened out.
The political finger pointing has not subsided even after almost three weeks have passed. Earlier today, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that he does not think that the sequester cuts will be changed for “some time” unless the Republicans have a change of heart. Basically, the Democrats are not willing to work with the Republicans and vice versa. He went on to say that Congress will hopefully be able to come up with a long-term budget plan but that would take time to be worked out.
So the sequester cuts remain in place and will likely remain for a while. Now the government has ended tuition assistance for military veterans that are not already receiving the benefits. This is how Congress has chosen to thank them for their years of service defending the rights of those same members of Congress that cut back on a benefit that they expected when they signed up for service. And if you are a current member of the military who is trying to get a career around your service, you may have to put that on hold as the government has cut that benefit as well. But the disrespect shown to the military does not even stop there. Now, due to the sequestration, scholarships for children whose parents were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are being cut back as well. Their parent made the ultimate sacrifice for the country and now the country has chosen to “honor” those that died in service to their country by reducing the scholarship promised to their children by around 38%. These are children who grew up without a parent (these scholarships go back years and are not only for those who have recently been lost in combat) but Congress has chosen to send that message that they care 38% less now than they did in the past.
Outside of how the sequester is affecting education benefits for those in the military, special education programs nationwide are on the verge of taking a financial pounding. Overall, the cuts to special education spending caused by the sequester is expected to have a negative impact on 7.4 million students nationwide as well as 49,365 educators according to the National Education Association (NEA). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is expected to be cut by around one billion dollars. The Committee for Education Funding (CEF) has estimated that the total cuts for education are going to be between $3.5 and $4.1 billion. The simple fact of the matter is that the students that will experience sequestration the most are those who have disabilities and low income students. If a local or state government were to make such cuts to special education, it is possible that they could be taken to court by the Justice Department for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Congress, however, feels like it is above the law and has the authority to bully those who cannot fight back.
In Minnesota alone, which is one of the states that is considered to be least affected by the sequester, the NEA projects that cuts to programs for low income students will impact 8,510 students. Cuts to Head Start will affect 570 students while other cuts to preschool grants will impact 785 more students. Cuts to programs for those who speak English as a second language or who are beginning English speakers will have a negative impact on 3,370 students. Special education cuts will hit hard as well with an estimated 5,525 students receiving lessened services due to sequestration. In Minnesota alone, the NEA estimates that the cuts will have a negative impact on 83,220 students and that the potential for 343 jobs being lost (118 of those jobs for those who work in special education). 83,220 is not a statistic. It is a lot of people. It is a lot of students who are seeing their right to an education being trampled on.
The voters put the current members of Congress in their position as well as President Obama. To point the finger at one single politician would be wrong. To point the finger at all of them collectively would be correct. It does not matter if the politician is a Republican or Democrat. That politician is a part of the problem. Not only have they demonstrated that they are not interested in the real world conditions of their constituents, they have chosen to throw dirt in the face of every American through the thrust of the sequester and its cuts. Not only have they clearly shown that education is not an issue for them, they have shown that they are more than content to focus the consequences of their ineptness in their jobs at those with disabilities. And their message to those who have served in the military or have had their lives changed irrevocably by military service is loud and clear: you served your country because you care about your country, but the people entrusted with running the country that you so loved that you risked your life do not care about you. Is there any bigger bully than one that takes advantage of the weakest kid on playground? Is there anyone more ungrateful than one who throws dirt in the face of those who served them? Actually, there is. There are 536 people who have chosen to do both in Washington right now: 435 Representatives, 100 Senators, and 1 President.