What does the looming debt ceiling battle mean for education?

Dive Brief:

  • A looming Congressional battle over increasing the government’s debt ceiling could see the U.S. Department of Education among the parts of the federal government to shut down if an agreement isn’t reached by Sept. 30, Education Week reports.
  • Among the major potential ramifications of a shutdown would be negative impacts to K-12 budgets and the ability of schools and districts to borrow and raise money if the nation’s credit rating is harmed, and education budgets could also wind up on the chopping block in a deal to reach a compromise and avoid shutdown.
  • While a short shutdown wouldn’t be felt much by schools, a longer one could hamper both funding to districts and approvals of state Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans.

Dive Insight:

While a short shutdown may not have much impact on the daily operations of public schools, any shutdown at all could present, at the very least, an annoyance due to the interruption of processes like ESSA accountability plan approvals. But the potential for further cuts to education funding in an effort to avoid it would perhaps do the most harm.

Public education funding at both the federal and state levels has long been in a number of lawmakers’ crosshairs and still largely has yet to recover from cuts made during the recession that began in 2008. With as much lip service that has been paid to improving the nation’s schools, even more so since ESSA’s passage in December 2015, further cuts to funding and programs would serve only to further set back progress. In an effort to prevent that from happening, it may be incumbent upon administrators to rally all stakeholders, from parents to industry, to encourage their representatives to refrain from taking such action. Collective outreach may be enough to convince lawmakers to look for cuts elsewhere.