WASHINGTON – Maryland schools could lose $34.7 million for education if temporary federal funding cuts are extended for the remainder of the fiscal year, a spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education said Tuesday.
The cuts were included in a stopgap funding bill that expires March 15. The bill was passed while negotiators work on a seven-year plan to balance the federal budget.
“In the absence of anything better, they are using the continuing resolution as a guideline for their budgets,” Ron Peiffer, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, said of the local school districts.
The federal education cuts, if extended for the year, would total $3.2 billion. Title I, which provides additional staff and resources for schools, would be hardest hit, losing $1.1 billion nationwide and $14.4 million in Maryland, according to U.S. Education Department figures.
The Title I grants are given to more than two-thirds of the elementary schools across the country. Reduced funding for Title I programs in Maryland could affect 10,000 disadvantaged children, Peiffer said. It could mean the loss of special needs services and instruction in English as a Second Language.
School board members from Maryland and other states rallied on Capitol Hill Tuesday to join Education Secretary Richard Riley in urging Congress to restore the funds.
“Education is not a budget item to be cut but a long-term investment in the future of our country and citizens,” Michael Resnick, senior associate executive director of the National School Boards Association, said at the rally.
Montgomery County is one Maryland school district that is not factoring the federal cuts into its budget, opting instead to supplement the difference with local funding, said Ana Gutierrez, vice president of the Montgomery County Board of Education.
“We will pick up locally where the federal budget leaves off. We want to maintain the services we now provide,” Gutierrez said.
Title I funds are used in Montgomery County to give teachers extra training and to provide schools with supplemental learning materials, such as computers. “We use the Title I funding for making the entire education experience an enriching one,” Gutierrez said. “The loss of the money at the federal level is disappointing.” -30-