Home Sequestration
Visit the IDEA Money Watch Blog for your state

Sign up for our
Email Newsletter

Sequestration - Frequently Asked Questions Print E-mail

Sequestration and the IDEA

Q. What is sequestration? (Pronounced se″kwes-tra´shun)

A. Sequestration is a fiscal policy procedure adopted by Congress to deal with the federal budget deficit. It first appeared in the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Reduction Act of 1985.

Simply put, sequestration is the cancellation of budgetary resources -- an "automatic" form of spending cutback. (Learn more here.) 

 Q. Why is sequestration important now?


A. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) established a 12 member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction  (or “super committee”)  charged with reducing the deficit by an additional $1.2 - $1.5 trillion over ten years. The BCA also included a sequestration hammer should the super committee fail, a provision intended to “force” the super committee to act.

Despite the threat of sequestration, the super committee failed. Announcing its inability to reach an agreement on November 21, 2011, the members of the bipartisan committee stated  that "after months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee's deadline."

So, as established in the BCA, sequestration was triggered when the super committee failed to reach an agreement. Sequestration generates automatic cuts for each of nine years, FY 13-21, totaling $1.2 trillion. Sequestration was originally scheduled to take effect on Jan. 2, 2013. However, it was delayed for two months - until March 1, 2013, by the deal struck on New Year's Eve, called the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.

Now, without Congressional action to prevent sequestration, the first round of cuts will take place on March 1, 2013.

The 2013 cuts apply to “discretionary” spending and are divided between reductions to  defense ($500 billion) and non-defense ($700 billion). 


Q. What must occur in order to avoid sequestration?  

Sequestration can only be avoided if Congress passes legislation that undoes the legal requirement in the BCA and that President Obama will sign before March 1, 2013.

While advocacy efforts to prevent sequestration are beginning to spring up, the strongest efforts focus on preventing the deep cuts to defense spending.

Q. Can the Executive Branch reconfigure sequestration cuts?

No. The cuts are automatic, across-the-board reductions to all discretionary programs unless exempted by the BCA. (A list of exempt programs is available here
.) The Executive Branch will have no authority or ability to redistribute the cuts.

Q. What impact will sequestration have on federal education programs and specifically, for funds provided to states and local school districts to support special education services?

Under sequestration, education funding will be subject to cuts ranging from 9.1% (in 2013) to 5.5% (in 2021) according to the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities. The reduction in FY 2013 would by $4.1 billion. These cuts would be distributed across the various education programs based on curr
ent funding levels. The Education Department cuts in FY 2013 will be distributed as shown in the following chart.

Under sequestration, federal funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act will be reduced by $1,053,600,000 in 2013, or 28 percent of the total reduction to education programs.

Q. What could be the result at the school and school district level if IDEA federal funds are reduced by such a significant amount?

A. A $1.1 billion reduction in IDEA federal funds in 2013 will put the federal contribution toward the cost of special education back to its 2005 level. Equally important, federal funds for IDEA have never come close to the amount authorized by IDEA, often referred to as “Full Funding.”

The chart below details IDEA federal funding over the past decade, along with the impact of both sequestration and the House Budget Plan.


This sharp decline in IDEA federal funding will force school districts to either reduce services beyond what is needed to provide a free appropriate public education to students with disabilities or supplement the shortfall with local funds—something unlikely to happen given continuing effects of the recession and the “lag time” between economic recovery in general and the effects, particularly in revenue, felt by state and local governments.

Close to 15,000 special education teachers could lose their jobs under sequestration. The result would mean higher student-teacher ratios (aka class size), as well as fewer support personnel such as aides who provide valuable and necessary assistance to skilled special educators.

Visit our state-by-state Sequestration Calculator to learn how much funding will be lost by your state. 


Blog Bytes

IDEA Money Watch Blog :: The Balance Sheet

> Analysis of LEAs identified with significant disproportionality in 2012-2013
Join in "Raise the Caps" Day of Action Sept. 10, 2015
> Bill to Change Local MOE Rules Introduced in House

> LEA MOE Reductions, Determinations and CEIS data for 2011-2012
> Understanding Full Funding of IDEA
> President's Budget Provides Less than 1% boost for IDEA

> Budget Deal brings IDEA increase
> Advocate/Activist's Call to Action
> New Report on Impact of Sequestration
> US Dept. of Ed proposes new regulations for LEA MOE
> State-by-state IDEA funding cuts under Sequestration
> US Dept. of Ed retracts MOE guidance challenged by IDEA Money Watch!
> Senate gives IDEA funding a boost
> Obama ignores special ed, again!
> Can You Say "Sequestration?"
> Comments to National Council on Disability
> Money Doesn't Trump Blame Game
> Deal or No Deal: ED's new info on LEA MOE provisions
> IDEA Money Watch responds to AEI report on Special Education Spending

> Meet the ARRA Albatross
> Funding Cliff Comes to New Hanover

LEA reductions in MOE
> State by state data available here
> 100 Largest School District info here

State MOE Waiver Requests ::
AL, IA (FY10), IA (FY11) KS, NJ, OR, SC, WV

Tutorial :: Understanding the Impact of IDEA Federal Funds and ARRA Funds over Time

Video :: The Business of Special Education

MOE Basics ::  Essential info on IDEA Maintenance of Effort

WI: Milwaukee Schools announced big cuts for 2012

NC: New Hanover district plans big cuts to special education

NY: State shifts special ed costs to districts

TX: Districts cut sped in spite of stimulus

KS may forfeit federal funds due to budget reduction

AZ's Gilbert SD announces cuts

FL district announces layoffs

GA district cuts teachers and paras

HI cuts special ed jobs for 09-10

IA district to eliminate special ed jobs 

IN districts announce special education cuts

IL's Chicago needs more Stimulus Oversight

KY district hands out "Wish Lists" Grants

OH districts buy technology with ARRA

CO BOCES uses IDEA ARRA Funds to pay for mismanagement

UT district buys computers that sit in boxes

MO district uses IDEA Funds Unwisely

VA district uses IDEA Funds for Co-Teaching PD

KPS4Parents, Inc. gives IDEA Money Watch 2 thumbs up!

LEA Ratings for every state:

IL, MI and MO announce LEA Rating Changes