Federal shutdown: impact on education

Oct. 9, 2013


The federal government shutdown is now in week 2, with no apparent end in sight.


How will the shutdown affect public education and education employees? MEA-MFT has been working with the Montana Office of Public Instruction and others to get this information.


The portion of funding for k-12 schools that comes from the State of Montana and local governments will not be directly affected. However, k-12 funding that comes from the federal government (school nutrition, Title I, Impact Aid, etc.) is a different story. The impact on these programs varies. The seriousness will depend on how long the shutdown continues.


We are still working on details of how the shutdown will affect education employees paid with federal funds.


Education Week reports the following:


K-12 Title I, special education, and career and technical education: For the most part, there will be no delay in funding for these school programs. Those programs are "forward funded," meaning school districts getting most of their federal money for the upcoming school year over the summer and in the early fall. Before they left on their furloughs, U.S. Department of Education employees made sure the dollars would keep flowing as scheduled in October.


K-12 school nutrition programs are a different story. Those programs are only funded into October. While states may have some left over funds from last fiscal year that they can carry forward, school nutrition is one program that could face serious problems in a protracted shutdown.


K-12 Impact Aid: Districts that get federal Impact Aid are a different story as well. Impact Aid is “current-year funded,” meaning districts are counting on those dollars to get them through the school year. Impact Aid school districts are already struggling from the sequester. (Impact Aid goes to school districts that lose out on tax revenue due to a federal presence such as an Indian reservation or military base nearby.)


If the shutdown goes on for a long time—or if Congress passes a series of very short-term extension measures keeping the government open for just a week or two while lawmakers hammer out their differences, things could get messy for Impact Aid districts. Last year, for example, some had to ask for an advanced payment on some of their funding, in part because there were so many short-term spending bills.


Higher education: Student loans and college aid:  Pell grants and federal student loans should largely be unaffected by the shutdown. Campus-based aid programs, such as Work Study, won't be so lucky.


Head Start, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is trickier. There are some 1,600 grantees nationwide, but just 23 would have their grants affected by a short-term shutdown. Overall, those centers serve nearly 19,000 children. Head Start programs in Montana and elsewhere have suffered significantly already from the sequester.


Overall: The longer the shutdown, the worse the problem could become for education. Official from the U.S. Dept. of Education wrote in their shutdown plan, "A protracted delay in Department obligations and payments beyond one week would severely curtail the cash flow to school districts, colleges and universities, and vocational rehabilitation agencies that depend on the Department to support their services.


Source: Education Week, “The Shutdown and Education: Your Cheat Sheet” by Alyson Klein, October 1, 2013  and “Answering Your Shutdown Questions,”  by Alyson Klein October 8, 2013 


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