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Hoyer-Op-Ed: Sequestration Demands a Better Answer


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By Steny Hoyer

For more than 30 years, I've been proud to represent my alma mater, the University of Maryland, College Park, and work to help further its mission by promoting quality, affordable education and this university's world-class research programs. That's why I was so disappointed that Congress failed to take meaningful action to prevent the arbitrary, and across-the-board spending cuts imposed by sequestration, which could significantly set back these efforts.

While the impact of the sequester will not be felt immediately, these extreme cuts will begin to put pressure on our economic recovery and national security over the coming weeks and months. They also slash critical investments in our future, including investments in a highly educated and competitive workforce that ensure our students have the skills required for the jobs that will expand our middle class.

From Head Start to higher education, these irrational budget cuts -- cutting the highest and lowest priorities equally -- could have a negative impact on education in this state and across the country. In our state alone, the cuts could mean losing about $14.4 million in funding for elementary and secondary education, putting about 200 teacher and aide jobs at risk and threatening our students' college readiness. Eight hundred fewer children could be enrolled in Head Start or Early Head Start, reducing access to the early childhood education that has been shown to be so important in narrowing the achievement gap.

About 770 fewer low-income students could receive financial aid, and about 440 students could lose the work-study opportunities that help them pay for school -- including more than 200 undergraduates at this university -- making it harder for students to finish their education and receive the training they need to find high-paying jobs. Sequestration will also affect federal grants that support the salaries of approximately 1,500 graduate research assistants and 2,300 research faculty and staff here on the campus.

These harmful cuts to education will not help us build the highly-skilled workforce we need to strengthen our economy and keep America competitive. We need to invest in our students -- not reduce funding for K-12 education, cut back on early childhood education that readies young children for school and make it more difficult for middle-class families and students to afford college or vocational training.

For the past eight weeks, the House has failed to consider a single piece of legislation on the floor to prevent these cuts. Recognizing the dangerous effects they could have on the future of this state's students and families, I co-sponsored an alternative to sequestration that would have stopped these painful, arbitrary cuts by replacing them with smart, strategic cuts and new revenues. President Obama has also put forward a balanced alternative along these same lines.

Unfortunately, Republicans, who control the agenda in the House, have repeatedly refused to bring an alternative to sequester to the Floor and continue to deny the American people an opportunity to see where their
representatives stand on this issue. I still believe a majority of representatives in Congress do not want to see these irrational cuts imposed and would prefer a balanced approach to reduce our deficits.

However, it's not too late to do the right thing and replace these cuts with a solution that deals with our deficits in a balanced way. Doing so will end the uncertainty many families and students here at this university and across the country are facing.

Over the days and weeks to come, I will continue to call on Congress to pass legislation that will replace the current meat-ax approach to addressing our deficits with a balanced plan that protects important investments that prepare the next generation for success and make our country better.

Steny Hoyer is the U.S. House of Representatives Minority Whip.

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