Last week, the New America Foundation’s Education Policy Program published an issue brief on the recently completed (and two months late) fiscal year 2013 budget, with an early analysis of how the 2014 budget process is likely to affect education programs. One careful reader noticed that the explanation about sequestration failed to mention two lesser-known education programs: the TEACH Grants and Iraq-Afghanistan Service Grant programs.
The former provides tuition aid to prospective teachers, but it converts to a loan if the student fails to complete four years of teaching to high-needs students after graduation. The latter provides tuition aid to the children of military parents who died during military service after September 11. Both programs are affected by across-the-board spending cuts implemented last year.
Although sequestration was meant to apply uniformly to most education programs, slicing evenly program by program, there were some exceptions. Pell Grants, as we’ve reported, were exempt, and student loans were subject only to a fee increase to reduce costs. And it appears that cuts will be larger for TEACH Grant and the Iraq-Afghanistan Service Grant than for other programs.
How much larger will the cuts be?
Recall that in accordance with the Budget Control Act of 2011, the failure of an appointed “supercommittee” to find $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years triggered the execution of across-the-board spending cuts in mid-fiscal year 2013. The final size of the cuts was 5.0 percent cut for education programs funded through appropriations, and 5.1 percent for those funded on the so-called mandatory side of the budget. (Both TEACH Grants and Iraq-Afghanistan Service Grants are considered mandatory funding.)
For the Iraq-Afghanistan Service Grant program, though, the reduction will be 10.0 percent. For the TEACH Grant, it will be 7.1 percent. Therefore, the maximum Iraq-Afghanistan Service Grant will drop from $5,645 (the program is meant to match the size of the maximum Pell Grant) to $5,081 next year. The maximum annual TEACH Grant drops from $4,000 to $3,716. Those reductions affect the first disbursement that occurs after March 1, 2013, which in most cases means the 2013-14 school year, and the reductions are effectively permanent, so they’ll remain at that lower level thereafter.
Why did sequestration impose larger reduction for these programs than for others? And why 10.0 percent for one and 7.1 percent for the other? The reasons remain unclear, and the U.S. Department of Education has not offered much explanation. Some media reports have suggested that the White House is working to limit the impact of sequestration by moving money around and restoring some funding under its budget authority – but thus far, there’s no word from the White House that such flexibility options were the case for these Department of Education programs. We’ll keep an eye out for a good explanation over the coming weeks and months.
And the confusion isn’t limited to these programs. The president’s fiscal year 2014 budget request, which usually includes spending levels for the prior two years, didn’t even incorporate final, post-sequester fiscal year 2013 spending into its budget tables, for the Department of Education or other agencies. So one thing is clear: The government still isn’t able to provide much evidence around sequestration’s implementation. In spite of anecdotal stories about children losing access to Head Start and special education and Title I services being cut across the country, there’s not yet a comprehensive understanding of how sequestration is affecting education programs.
For more on last year’s budget, check out our issue brief, Federal Education Budget Update: Fiscal Year 2013 Recap and Fiscal Year 2014 Early Analysis.