Children and Schools Will Pay the Price for Sequestration

FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2013 file photo, first grade teacher Lynda Jensen teaches her class of 30 children at the Willow Glen
FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2013 file photo, first grade teacher Lynda Jensen teaches her class of 30 children at the Willow Glen Elementary School in San Jose, Calif. Looming federal spending cuts are expected to dampen California's economic recovery at a time when a housing rebound and job growth are gaining traction, but come Friday the immediate effect may not prove to be the fiscal doomsday that President Barack Obama has predicted. The White House estimates that in California, 64,000 civilian defense workers would be furloughed and 1,200 teaching and teacher aide jobs would be put at risk from the mandatory budget reductions known as the "sequester." Obama administration officials also said the state will see program cuts in children's vaccines, senior nutrition, student work-study jobs and assistance for victims of domestic violence. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, file)

Participating in the Washington blame game is not going to stop the dangerous across-the-board cuts set to kick in this Friday. These cuts are not just numbers. Every cut and every dollar has a real-life, real-world, disastrous consequence.

This faux crisis will throw cold water on our fragile economy and devastate America's children and families. Taking an ax to investments in our children, our economic recovery, and our communities is irresponsible and dangerous.

Could you look into a child's eyes and tell her she's not worth our time and investment? If Congress fails to act, that is the message we are sending to millions of children and families. We are telling them that in the richest nation on earth, we are going to allow a made-up crisis rob them and our country of a better and brighter future.

The cuts we are talking about are not abstract, they are not small, and they will have severe consequences in nearly every congressional district and in schools that already are stretching resources to their breaking point.

Here is the real-life, real-world impact of these cuts:

  • Laying off tens of thousands of teachers means our children will be forced to go to schools with even more crowded classrooms, making it harder for them to receive the individual instruction they need.

  • Low-income children and children with special needs will lose the instructional support and services they require to succeed in the classroom.
  • Thousands more children will show up to school hungry at the same time we cut resources to keep these children well-fed and ready to learn.
  • Tens of thousands of children will be kicked out of Head Start, child care and other high-quality early childhood education programs, losing out on an experience that would put them on a solid path for success both in school and in life, and inflicting additional financial pain on working families.
  • Children and families would be denied lifesaving immunizations -- immunizations that many schools require children to have before entering the classroom.
  • Cuts in rental assistance to families with very low incomes would place about 125,000 families at immediate risk of losing their permanent housing. How can kids learn if they don't have a stable roof over their heads?
  • And college students will lose the work-study programs and need-based financial aid they count on to afford school and support themselves.
  • Our children deserve better. Our children deserve our love and our commitment to ensure they are able not only to dream their dreams but to achieve them.

    We didn't get to this point accidentally. The sequester threat was put in place because people believed that such draconian cuts would spur action from both sides to prevent the cuts from ever taking place. Now Congress must live up to its responsibility to the American people and to our children. It must put a stop to this endless charade of manufactured crises, and start investing in building a brighter future for all who call America home. We cannot cut our way to prosperity, and we cannot continue to inflict pain on children and families and on those who educate, heal and nurture them.

    Congress should stop the blame game and act immediately on the balanced approach put forth by Sens. Harry Reid and Patty Murray that would stop these dangerous cuts by closing tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans and big corporations, and by asking millionaires to pay a little more.

    Our children -- the future nurses, educators, astronauts, presidents and CEOs who will heal, educate and lead our country -- are counting on Congress to act. And to act now.