A variety of education programs will feel effects of shutdown

government-shutdownAs Congress failed to reach a budget agreement on Sept. 30, triggering a federal government shutdown, education leaders and ed-tech stakeholders wondered how long, and to what extent, education programs would be impacted.

Experts are unsure how long the shutdown will continue, and while some education programs receiving mandatory funding will be sustained, others will see a delay in funds and activity.

The federal eRate program, which is administered independently and funded by the Universal Service Fund, will continue to function. However, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which sets eRate policy, is impacted by the shutdown, and anything needing approval or guidance would likely be delayed or halted during the shutdown due to staff limitations, said Clare McCann, a New America Foundation policy analyst. As of October 1, the FCC’s website displayed a bare-bones message informing visitors of the shutdown.

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The Pell Grant program and the federal student loan program, along with programs that have already received funding, including most K-12 programs, will function as usual, she said. However, staff will not be in place to issue new funding or offer guidance after October 1, forcing the temporary shutdown of approximately 19,000 Head Start slots and delaying the issuance of campus-based aid to postsecondary students.

Barbara Haxton, executive director of the Ohio Head Start Association, told the Associated Press that preschool learning programs would be in jeopardy if a shutdown lasted more than two weeks. Automatic budget cuts in March meant nearly 3,000 children lost access to services and there could be dire consequences if the budget standoff drags on, she said.

“It’s not as though this is a throwaway service. These are the poorest of the poor children,” Haxton said. “And our congressman still gets his paycheck. His pay doesn’t stop and his health insurance doesn’t stop.”

Other major K-12 programs, such as Title I and IDEA, have already received much of their funding, and likely won’t feel an impact unless the shutdown drags on for an extended time, McCann said.

Out of 4,195 U.S. Department of Education (ED) employees, 212 are essential and are expected to work during the shutdown.

On Oct. 1, ED’s website displayed the following message:
Thank you for visiting ED.gov. Due to a lack of appropriations effective October 1, ED activities have been curtailed and most employees are on furlough. ED.gov will not be updated during the shutdown. Updates will resume and ED will return to normal operations as soon as funding is restored.

The Data Quality Campaign’s blog noted that, because much of the National Center for Education Statistics is inactive during the shutdown, educators, parents, and students won’t have access to timely and high-quality data.

Another potentially more serious problem is looming on the horizon, however: October 17, which is when the U.S. will hit its debt ceiling for the first time in history, rendering it unable to make payments. This, experts say, has global implications.

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