Iowa City officials unfazed by possible hits to education funding come March 1


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The looming sequestration would cut $6.4 million in funding for primary and secondary education in Iowa, according to a report released by the White House. However, some local education officials say the effect wouldn’t necessarily equate to dramatic changes.

The report pointed out a decrease in funding for the federal work-study program, which helps students work though college. However, work-study at the University of Iowa would not be affected by the automatic spending cuts, set to kick in on Froday.

“What I understand from our National Organization of Student Financial Aid Administration, the University of Iowa would not lose our federal work-study funding,” said Mark Warner, the director of UI Student Financial Aid.

The programs wouldn’t change because of complicated federal formulas dictating who gets funding and who doesn’t, Warner said. However, some students may feel a pinch in another area.

The Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant would be reduced in the wake of the sequestration.

“Our anticipated allocation of funding was $456,000, and the anticipated loss after the sequestration would be about $16,000,” Warner said.

At about $1,000 allotted to assist each student, around 16 students would be left out, a reduction of about 3.5 percent.

Tim Hagle, a UI associate professor of political science, said this reduction is too small to be called a “cut.”

Federal Pell Grant funding would not be affected by the sequestration.

“It’s not clear if anything is going to get done by Friday, but even with the doom and gloom rhetoric from the Obama administration, nothing is going to immediately happen,” Hagle said.

The Iowa City School District does not currently have a plan to counter federal spending cuts; the district is bolstered by state legislated 2 percent allowable growth, School Board member Sarah Swisher said.

However, she believes that it’s not the direction she would like the see things go.

“We are dependent on federal dollars for many important programs from special education to food programs,” Swisher said. “We need the federal government as a partner in education and not a deterrent in that programming.”

Even if the federal government cuts programs, it doesn’t mean it will affect students, Hagle said. He noted the Iowa surplus for certain funding and said that schools can cover programs by shifting money around to cover costs.

“Education is usually something, regardless of Republicans or Democrats, you’re in favor of,” he said. “It’s a questions of what exactly in education you’re talking about.”

University officials said that it’s too early to determine what changes would be made on campus if the sequestration is left unabated.

“It’s all in how it gets implemented; we have a lot of federal research and students who use federal aid, but it’s too early to determine what the impact would be,” said Peter Matthes, the federal-relations director for UI Governmental Relations.

Yet, some are still worried.

“We have lobbied our local elected officials to argue against sequestration,” Swisher said. “We need greater support from the [federal] government rather than less.”

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