Experts say Sequestration Will Probably Deepen Racial Inequality In America

4798 On Capitol Hill, there are two ways that people tend to talk about the sequester -- a slate of automatic federal spending cuts that are difficult but necessary, or a blunt tool that will inflict tremendous suffering.

In this Feb. 22, 2013, photo provided by the Killeen Independent School District, students move through the halls of Meadows Elementary School in Fort Hood, Texas. Meadows is one of nine public schools on Fort Hood operated by Killeen Independent School District, which stands to lose at least $2.6 million before the end of the year if across-the-board federal spending cuts take effect. (AP Photo/Killeen Independent School District, Todd Martin)
But a growing chorus of researchers, political analysts and economists say that the cuts are poised to inflict particularly intense pain on people of color and impede the country's ability to prosper as these populations grow.

"What you will keep hearing is that it is a little to early to know exactly what is going to happen. And I agree. But I think there are certainly a number of areas where you can expect a disproportionate impact on black and Latino families," said Margaret C. Simms, a fellow at the Urban Institute think tank in Washington, D.C., and director of its Low-Income Working Families Project. "What we are talking about is taking the existing inequalities this country has and really making them worse, much worse."

If the Obama administration and Congress fail to reach an agreement to modify the slate of automatic spending cuts, as much as $900 million could be cut from Head Start, a federal early education program aimed at helping low-income children keep pace with their peers in school, according to a February analysis by the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank. Losing those funds means that as many as 700,000 children in need of Head Start services may not be able to enroll. A full 60 percent of children enrolled in Head Start are black, Latino or Asian.

Young students would not be the only ones to suffer. The analysis found that the sequester would also lead to about $3 billion in cuts to other areas of education, including college financial aid, funding for students who are enrolled in programs to learn English, and funding for schools that serve a large number of low-income students.

All told, the Center for American Progress estimates that 9.3 million students would have access to less funding or fewer educational services needed to complete their education. This could lead to an ever higher rate of student debt among African Americans and Latinos -- in the 2007-'08 academic year, 81 percent of African Americans and 67 percent of Latinos with a bachelor's degree graduated with student debt, compared to 64 percent of their white peers, according to a 2012 study by the center.

Another $543 million would be cut from the Women Infant and Children Program, a nutrition assistance program that helps low-income mothers with children under the age of 5 pay for healthy food, juices, milk and other vitamin-rich items thought to be essential for early-life development, the analysis found.

Source: Black Voices | Janell Ross
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