U.S. troops' kids early victims of Congress budget inaction
By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Amid all the hand-wringing in the U.S. Congress over January 2 spending cuts that would wallop military and domestic programs, children of American soldiers already are feeling the pinch of a budget mess.
Feuding Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress may think that they have about four months to find a smarter alternative to the blunt trauma of $109 billion in across-the-board spending cuts in January and $1.2 trillion over 10 years.
What many lawmakers may not realize is that because of their inability to compromise on a replacement for this budget axe - and because of a quirk in the way the U.S. Department of Education allocates funds to schools heavily populated by military kids - the pain already is palpable.
And that has the administrators of schools serving American bases reeling.
"My sense is the (federal) government is pretty much parked in the garage. It's idling, at best," said Billy Walker, superintendent of a school district 15 miles (24 km) northeast of San Antonio, Texas.
Calling the looming U.S. budget cuts "the elephant in the room," Walker said that when the 1,200 students in Randolph Field schools start classes on August 27 they will have to contend with dwindling staff and other cuts.
Kids will have fewer reading specialists and math, English and science instructors, a smaller special education staff and other spending reductions sprinkled throughout his budget.
With Washington showing no signs of action, Walker said he simply had to bake into this academic year's budget the January 2 spending cuts. "I don't have a lot of confidence our federal legislators will do anything to help us," Walker told Reuters. Continued...