As we go into week two of the government shutdown with no end in sight, many people are wondering what will happen to schools. While there shouldn’t be significant impact at the school or school district level at this stage, this memo from the Penn Hill Group provides a comprehensive outline of the impact of the shutdown on U.S. Department of Education programs. Key highlights include:
Elementary and Secondary Formula Programs
Title I, IDEA Part B, and other formula programs are forward-funded, meaning the funding for a fiscal year is provided to states in July. So, school districts shouldn’t have any issues drawing down these funds. In addition, the Department of Education’s contingency plan made clear that funding available to states for these programs in October will be allocated as originally planned.
There are several programs that are funded on a “current-year” basis and could be affected if the shutdown becomes prolonged. One such program is Impact Aid, which assists schools whose local sales or property tax funding is adversely affected because the school is on land owned by the Federal Government or land that has been removed from the local tax rolls by the Federal Government. Many schools on Indian reservations are aided by this program and could face funding issues if the shutdown last more than a couple of weeks.
Competitive Grant programs
Many federal grant program awards are made in the spring, so a government shutdown of a few weeks is unlikely to have significant consequences. However, a lengthier shutdown could cause delays in grant-making, especially for Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation and Promise Neighborhoods. The Department is still processing the FY2013 competitions and must award grants by December 31.
Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a path forward for a quick resolution and the stakes only get higher over the next ten days, as Congress must also act to increase the debt ceiling by mid-October. It is likely that government funding and the debt ceiling will be negotiated in one package. If lawmakers can't make that happen, there could be major implications for school districts, states, and the overall economy. That could be much worse than the shutdown.
Gina Mahony is the senior vice president of government relations at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Nick Fickler is a staff assistant at the Alliance.