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How the federal shutdown is affecting education

Published: Friday, Oct. 4 2013 10:30 a.m. MDT

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell talks with kindergarten students at Lowrance Elementary in Memphis, Tenn. Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, after reading "Otis," a children's book by Loren Long, as part of Jumpstart's Read for the Record education campaign.

Brandon Dill, Associated Press

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The federal government shutdown isn’t having a drastic effect on K-12 and higher education in the U.S. — yet. But certain programs are already feeling its effects and many others will if the shutdown isn’t quickly resolved.

The Head Start preschool program for low-income children has taken the hardest hit. The National Head Start Association said in a written statement that 23 programs in 11 states have grant cycles that should have begun Oct. 1. Those grants were delayed. Head Start programs already took a 5 percent funding reduction last March due to sequestration, and some might not have reserve funds to last through the shutdown.

A story in Education Week magazine said state education leaders are having trouble getting answers to their questions. The federal Department of Education office isn’t taking calls because about 90 percent of its employees have been furloughed. That means state applications for federal funding could be delayed, resulting in financial losses.

In the higher-education world, the shutdown’s most immediate effect is felt by researchers who depend on government-run archives, libraries and museums, said a story in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau are among agencies whose research websites are not operating.

In the short term, the shutdown won’t disrupt student aid, but a lapse of longer than a week could curtail the cash flow to colleges with federal grants, according to the Department of Education’s contingency plan.

A shutdown more than a week long would severely diminish the cash flow to school districts, colleges and universities, and vocational rehabilitation agencies, according to Education Week.

And that’s not the only money worry in the education world. If Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling by mid-October, there could be major implications for school districts, states and the overall economy, the story said.

Email: cbaker@deseretnews.com Twitter: @celiarbaker

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