Blog: The Educated Reporter

Word on the Beat No. 1: Sequestration

One of the best things about getting to write The Educated Reporter blog is that it helps me keep up to date on the latest issues and concerns for public education. At the same time, I’m continually amazed at how quickly the jargon and buzzwords seem to multiply on the education beat. Starting today, I’m going to do my part to help add some clarity to the conversation. On a regular basis, I’ll tackle an Education Buzzword You Need To Know. (I say this with the full realization that such designations are highly subjective. But let’s give it a shot, shall we?)

I’ve already put out the call for suggestions to education beat reporters working across the country in print, broadcast, and digital media. You can email your suggestions to me, or use the comments section of the blog. I look forward to your input.

So, what word gets the honor of being the first entry in the new Educated Reporter Word on the Beat glossary? Drumroll, please …

Word on the Beat: Sequestration.

What it means: Sequestration refers to federal monies that will be held back from federal agencies as a result of across-the-board budget cuts put in place by Congress as a result of negotiations that resulted in the raising of the debt ceiling in summer 2011. The majority of the cuts – representing about 8 percent of every federal agency’s budget – take effect Jan. 2. The cuts to most federal funding for schools will be delayed until the start of the 2013-14 academic year, giving local education agencies more time to prepare.

Why it matters: Sequestration is a critical element in the looming “fiscal cliff,” which some people  — like senior editor Derek Thompson of The Atlantic — argue is a misnomer of its own. At the same time, education officials at the local, state and national level are warning that the steep cuts could devastate public schools, particularly those with large populations of at-risk students.

Who’s talking about it? Just about everyone. If you need further evidence, Politico’s Tim Mak has it:

In the four weekdays before the election, sequestration was mentioned just 164 times in American television and radio reports, according to a POLITICO analysis of TVEyes media monitoring reports. From Nov. 6 to Nov. 9, the term was mentioned 735 times.

Print news outlets also got in on the action. There were only 453 mentions of sequestration in news outlets in the four weekdays before Election Day, compared with 601 after, according to Nexis.

Want to know more? Politics K-12 writer Alyson Klein offers a thoughtful backgrounder on the fiscal cliff. If you’re looking for the federal take, check out the report from the Office of Management & Budget. The National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, has an online database showing how deep the sequestration cuts will dig in each state. Cumulatively, the cuts will mean $1.2 billion fewer federal dollars for Title I – funding earmarked for students from low-income households. That will mean reduced services for 1.7 million students and eliminating an estimated 15 million education jobs, according to the NEA. There would also be $44 million less for School Improvement Grants, a central plank in the Obama administration’s education reform platform.


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