1. What is sequestration?
A: Sequestration is a fiscal policy procedure adopted by Congress to deal with the federal budget deficit. Simply put, sequestration is the cancellation of previously approved spending— an automatic form of spending cuts. As modified by the fiscal cliff deal passed by Congress January 1, 2013, sequestration took effect March 1, 2013 and will continue to impose cuts over the next eight years, 2014–2021.
Some federal programs are called "mandatory" and are handled differently. However, the rest of the government, the so-called "discretionary" programs, are subject to significant cuts that started in 2013 that are to be divided equally between nondefense spending and defense spending.
2. Why did sequestration happen in FY13?
A: A law passed by Congress and signed by the president in August 2011 created a Congressional supercommittee to deal with the federal budget deficit with the mandate to enact a package of tax increases and spending cuts to reduce the deficit. As an incentive for Democrats and Republicans to reach agreement, the law contains the threat of the across-the-board cuts (sequestration) if a deal wasn’t struck. No deal was reached by this deadline, triggering sequestration in January 2013. Congress did pass a budget deal in late 2012 that postponed sequestration until March 2013.
3. Will sequestration happen in FY14?
A: No, thanks to the limited budget agreement passed by Congress in December 2013 that replaces sequestration for FY14 and FY15 and reinstates some of the funding cuts from FY13. Specific funding levels for education must be agreed to by the House and Senate committees charged with these decisions.
4. How long will sequestration last?
A: Sequestration is the law of the land through 2021 until Congress passes another bill to repeal or replace it in subsequent years. If not, education funding may be subject to additional cuts.
5. What should I say?
A: Educators should hold lawmakers accountable for their fiscal decisions by speaking out boldly and often. Every child deserves an excellent education to prepare them for college or a career. Research shows that every dollar invested in education provides a return to the economy in terms of productivity, taxes, and overall well-being. Congress must prioritize federal investments to recognize the benefits of an educated citizenry and increase our government’s commitment to our children.
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