News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

February 28, 2013

Local schools foresee big hit from sequester

Covered Bridge, other special needs programs in jeopardy from cuts

TERRE HAUTE — If a sequester takes effect Friday, public schools face potential cuts to programs that benefit both disadvantaged and special needs students.

Covered Bridge faces a possible 5.1-percent cut in its federal grant, or about $300,000, said Jeff Blake, executive director of Covered Bridge Special Education District.

In addition, the Vigo County School Corp. receives separate federal funding that goes to its general fund, also benefiting special education students.

Cuts to both sources of federal funding would add up to around 8 percent, Blake said. “That could have a tremendous impact,” Blake said. “I’m very concerned about it.”

For Covered Bridge, cuts would likely affect staffing, which is 90 percent of its budget. Covered Bridge has about 120 employees — administrators, teachers, aides, psychologists.

The Vigo County School Corp. employs even more special education staff, Blake said.

As Blake watches news reports about the sequester, he finds it disturbing that neither side in Washington is willing to compromise. “No one seems to be too alarmed,” he said. “How can they be calm and cool and just let it happen. … To me this is an emergency.”

Federal funding to Covered Bridge is about $5 million annually, which includes a small preschool grant.

According to a report released by the White House, Indiana would lose about $12.4 million for about 150 teachers, aides and staff who assist children with disabilities.

In addition, the automatic cutback would cost Indiana about $13.8 million in other funding for public schools, putting around 190 teacher and aide jobs at risk.

Federal Title 1 funds, which benefit schools with higher poverty rates, would be affected, but no specifics have been released, said Christi Fenton, Vigo County School Corp. director of elementary education. “I haven’t heard anything at this point,” she said.

The district receives about $5 million in Title 1 funds each year, which is used for Reading Recovery, interventions, remediation, after-school programs, preschool and overall school improvement efforts. It also has funded a summer school program over the last five years.

Title 1 employs 48 teachers at 12 Title I schools, 30 educational assistants and seven teachers hired to provide professional development.

“Title 1 pays for people, and if funds were cut, it would mean cutting people who provide the services,” Fenton said. That would likely be accomplished through staff attrition.

While she’s not panicking yet, “I’d like to see everything resolved so we know what we are dealing with.


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