Sequestration Threatens Long Beach Early and Special Education


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Issues in the nation's capital are now hitting close to home as the effects of federally imposed sequestration budget cuts--which went into effect earlier this month--begin to trickle down to the local level. In Long Beach, the inevitable effects on early childhood and secondary education are dire with the Long Beach Unified School District losing more than $3 million as well as its Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

"As a parent and a teacher I can attest that a cut to education is a cut to our future,” said 4th District Councilmember Patrick O’Donnell, who also teaches in the Paramount Unified School District.

When the House Republicans and Democrats were unable to come to an agreement on how to fight the growing national deficit ar the end of last year, they enacted $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts to domestic spending which went into effect on March 1. Because the sequester threshold was originally set as a motivator for collaboration between the two parties and was never legitimately thought to be breached, it was unclear how and where the cuts would take place. But when the first post-sequester checks were sent out, Long Beach Unified School District--the third largest in the state--learned that it would be losing $3.5 million in annual funding, according to LBUSD spokesman Chris Eftychiou.

California as a whole stands to lose $87.6 million in funding for primary and second education, leaving about 320 fewer schools statewide receiving fewer federal contributions. An additional $62.9 million is scheduled to be slashed from the disbursement of dollars to education for children with disabilities. Sequester will also eliminate Head Start and Early Head Start programs to over 8,000 children nationwide.

“The futures of our children and our communities depend on Congress doing the right thing and ending sequester cuts,” said Dan Mulherin, a LBUSD parent. 

This information was provided last week at a special meeting at the Buffum Learning Center in Long Beach, a center that specializes in providing education for children with special needs and handicaps and an LBUSD facility that will be hard hit by these cuts. In addition to providing behavioral, language academic, play and sensory based programs for preschoolers, it caters to children with autism and hearing or physical impairments.

The cuts to the center’s budget will not only take away education opportunities from children with special needs, but according to Jamie McLaughlin--a special education instructor at the center--it will add more pressure on their parents to find places for their kids to go.

"Buffum Learning Center students will be affected by these sequestration cuts," Mclaughlin said. "This means students will not only lose their place to learn and grow during the day but their parents will also have the added stress to their budgets of having to make alternative arrangements for them during the day."

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