What ‘sequestration’ could mean for school grant seeking in 2013

The number of applications for competitive grant programs to all funders will increase significantly.

You might already know that the Budget Control Act of 2011 created a Joint Commission of Congress that is charged with identifying budgetary savings of at least $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. If a joint committee bill is not enacted by Jan. 15, 2013, an automatic spending reduction process will go in to place. Sequestration, or the cancellation of budgetary resources, will take effect on Jan. 2, 2013. Based on what I have read, I believe sequestration will have a dramatic impact on the grants field.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) already has stated that it expects fewer medical research grants, with approximately 700 fewer grant opportunities to be available in 2013. The National Science Foundation has stated up to 1,500 grant opportunities could be cut as a result of sequestration.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan presented testimony to the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Committee in July. He stated that sequestration would reduce spending on federal education programs by 7.8 percent. He said the following programs would be at risk:

  • Title I funding would be cut by $1.1 billion.
  • Special-education funding would be reduced by $900 million.
  • The Impact Aid program would receive cuts that impact schools serving military families.

Charts from the National Education Association (www.pta.org/3E_Handout_4_-_NEA_Sequestration.pdf) have more extensive listings of the various grant programs that would be affected by sequestration in categories that include Elementary and Secondary Education, Special Education, and Career, Technical, and Adult Education. Some of the grant programs include 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Mathematics and Science Partnerships, Education for Homeless Children and Youth, preschool grants (IDEA-B-611) and grants for infants and families (IDEA-C). Most, if not all, of the programs listed are discretionary grant programs, meaning that funds are awarded using a competitive process.

If funding is reduced in 2013 and beyond, it could mean that the number of grants awarded would stay the same and each award would be for a lesser amount of money, or the number of grants awarded would be smaller and the funding amounts would remain stable. Either way, school districts across the country are sure to feel the impact of these cuts. More than likely, according to the charts, many services for children will be cut back or even eliminated—which could lead to significant job losses for teachers and other school personnel.

If sequestration were to occur, it’s my belief that the number of applications for competitive grant programs to all funders will increase significantly as districts attempt to locate funding from other sources to make up for these losses. Districts that, until now, had not looked at private foundations as possible sources for grants will likely add these funders to their grant-seeking efforts. If you think the grants field is competitive now, expect it to get even more severe in the next few years if sequestration takes place.

In the meantime, I would suggest staying in touch with your members of Congress and your state department of education to monitor what is occurring regarding the BCA—and to lobby for a budget-cutting bill that avoids sequestration and also spares education from too many cuts. If sequestration does take effect and my predictions come true, get prepared to do more proposals and more intensive grant writing in the next few years.

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