While many government programs are feeling the impact of the federal government shutdown, public schools have been relatively immune to the squeeze — for now.
Information released by the Texas Education Agency stated that Texas public schools will not be immediately impacted by the shutdown, largely due to the fact the federal dollars for education is “forward funded.”
That means federal money for the nation’s schools for the current school year was appropriated last year, before the shutdown.
“Deliberations over the (fiscal year) 2014 budget will determine appropriations for the next school year (2014–2015), and at this time it is anticipated that appropriations already determined for school year 2013–2014 would not be jeopardized,” according to a TEA statement released shortly before the Tuesday shutdown.
The nation’s school districts, including those in Bell County, receive funds for federal programs in areas like special education, Title I (funding for economically disadvantaged children) and, locally, Federal Impact Aid for districts located near large federal facilities such as Fort Hood.
“So far, we have not had any significant impact on those funds,” said Michael Novotny, superintendent for the Salado Independent School District. “There wasn’t any immediate change to our federal funding.”
Joseph Burns, superintendent for the Copperas Cove Independent School District, echoed similar sentiments, and said the shutdown has not affected any district operations thus far.
However, both Novotny and Burns said that could change if the shutdown were to continue for an extended period of time.
“Those payments, especially our Impact Aid, might be delayed,” Burns said. “If it gets to that, we have to dip into our fund balance to make that up.”
Another program that may be at risk, should the shutdown continue, is Head Start, which provides early childhood education programs and related social services for children age 5 and younger from low-income families.
The shutdown has already caused roughly 19,000 children in 11 states to lose access to Head Start.
Texas is not one of those states, but the grants that run the Head Start programs in Texas, including those in Central Texas, are set to expire in December.
“Everybody’s grants come up for renewal at a different time,” said Tama Shaw, executive director for the Hill Country Community Action Association Inc., which runs Central Texas Head Start programs. “We are very lucky that our fiscal year does not start until December.”
Shaw said any cuts caused by an extended shutdown would come on top of a $450,000 decrease in funding caused by federal sequestration. That cut forced the association to close four Head Start centers this year.
“We don’t want to have to close more centers,” Shaw said. “Hopefully things can get resolved.”