Government Shutdown: How Would Educators Feel the Impact?

(Update: A deal was reached between President Obama and Congressional leaders late Friday night on a budget plan for the rest of the fiscal year that will avert a government shutdown.) Tricia Sardella, a classroom teacher, is just one of the tens of millions of Americans who would be affected by the looming shutdown of the federal government. Serdalla’s husband is a full-time crew chief for the Vermont Air National Guard. During a shutdown, he won’t be paid.

“My salary as a teacher will not support our family and we will get further left behind than we already are,” Sardella says. “We will be without his paycheck and that will hurt us tremendously …with three children to feed and bills to pay we will go through our small savings rather quickly. We depend on two paychecks.”

During the budget impasse that has gripped Capitol Hill, discussions about who and what will be affected most by a shutdown haven’t focused on education. Most programs will continue to run because they have received money from the federal government and can continue spending it. For example, students on free or reduced price meals will still receive them because they were funded through the end of the year, so reimbursements will continue.  There are a few exceptions, such as a delay in any new applications for federal aid, including Pell Grants for higher education, since the agencies that confirm Social Security numbers and eligibility would be unmanned.

Nonetheless, the economic security of educators like Sardella is a major concern, explains Jerald Newberry, Executive Director of the National Education Association’s Health Information Network.

“With no dollars coming in the door for period of time, the worry about first and most will be mortgages,” says Newberry. “School employees are barely able to pay them when full dollars are flowing in the door, but when a spouse loses income, it becomes very difficult.”

Many NEA members work in the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), a civilian agency that manages public schools on U.S. military bases around the world. These educators just received word that these schools will remain open during the shutdown and they will continue working. However, if the shutdown lasts past April 15, paychecks to these “excepted” employees will stop until the budget stalemate is resolved.

Manda Voth, who teaches on a military installation in Kansas, is concerned about her students who have parents in the military.

“All of the students in our school have one or both of their parents in the military, some of whom are in Iraq or Afghanistan right now. So they are fighting for our freedoms and not going to earn a paycheck? And in some cases both parents won’t be paid leaving our students and their families with zero income.”

Beyond immediate economic concerns, adds Newberry, just the anxiety and uncertainty alone can also take a serious toll.

“Will the government shut down? If so, for how long? Will I or my spouse get paid after it’s reopened, or will I lose that income? That uncertainty is very stressful.”

  • Nicole

    I honestly think that they should just raise taxes. My education is more important than some idiot taking money from our schools so we have less opportunities. And they say we’re the future? Come on now you’re going to tell us this and tell us to do our best in school but then take money from us so we have less teachers which causes crowding of the classes, no electives (which we need those credits to graduate), and no sports. What in your right mind are you thinking? You’re going to give that money to prisons? That’s just asking for more people to get in trouble if they’re struggling in life. Oh and then they’re changing school times?! Why would you do that when it’s been fine the way it’s been all these years? Do the right thing- we need education to be leaders don’t we? Think about it – they’re basically making us go to school so that we’re off the streets and not causing trouble. That’s the only reason they’re keeping schools now if they’re just going to cut our funding. They don’t care because it’s not their life they’re messing up it’s ours. I’d actually like to go somewhere in life and have a good job but this is just making it more difficult for everyone who wants those things to succeed. For instance we don’t NEED roads they’re just nice to have so we shouldn’t be wasting our money on xxxx we don’t absolutely need and start using it for things we do need! We’re in debt for gods sake – stop borrowing money and use the money we have for the right things! This just goes to show that the dumb ass making these decisions didn’t have enough education himself. Goodness Some Peoples Kids!