I recently learned that Texas will lose if $67.8 million if sequestration (automatic cuts) goes into effect on March 1. The vast majority of that ($51 million) will result in a decrease of funding for children with disabilities, including firing 620 staff members who aid these students. After seeing this, I started to consider the theme of this 2013 UCEA Convention: Seeking New Understandings to Persistent Challenges: A Call to Action to (Re)Unite Research, Policy and Practice with Community. It brought up a couple of questions for me, particularly as they relate to building community support to achieve a goal. Given my strong predilection to question how the work I am doing is actually benefiting children in schools, I asked myself what is the intersection of community and leadership preparation work, and its ability to make an immediate impact in schools? How does the sequestration debate in Washington, which has the potential to have profound effects on the lives of children, challenge the practice of educational leadership professors?
If you have been paying attention, you may have noticed the cuts will have a disparate impact in this country, depending largely on where you and your social status. For example, Los Angeles USD, the nation’s second-largest public school district, would lose $37 million in federal funding. John Deasy, the superintendent, stated that amounts to about $100,000 per school and that the budget cuts would detrimentally impact programs that help impoverished students, many of whom speak Spanish, prepare for kindergarten and learn to read. He also added that “It affects the youth who live in greatest poverty much more so than just across the district”. That quote is revealing because it partially explains what ostensibly seems to be a great deal of apathy about these cuts. In fact, many will not even know the cuts are happening. Closer to the truth is that the cuts amplify the differences between the haves and have-nots. If you are part of the insulated and empowered, then you will go on doing business as usual on March 2 because your life is not likely to be affected. On the other hand, if you are within the ilk of impoverished kids and families of color, you will likely start to see the cuts in your school community and feel their incisive impact. Indeed, these cuts, like so much in the country, truly diminish a chance at a sense of building community. Those most affected may be less informed and less empowered to do anything about these cuts. However, those informed and empowered (that includes professors) will need to take a stand on this issue for the sake of the voiceless. This is a persistent issue. If I may return to the theme, we are truly being called to seek new challenges to these persistent challenges. This is a call to action to (re)unite research, policy, and practice with community. What will you do in your state?