This piece is part of a debate on the National Journal's Education Experts Blog.
Sounding a lot like an anguished teen, Secretary Duncan has suggested that a 5.3% cut in federal education programs (which account for about 10% of K-12 spending) is devastating. Now, as memory serves, this is the same guy who (falsely) claimed in 2010 that districts had been slashing spending, "through muscle, to bone" since 2003. It's also the guy who brags that the feds provided more than $60 billion in K-12 stimulus in 2009, and another $10 billion or so in 2010 EduJobs dollars. To me, it all feels a bit like a lovelorn teen, gyrating from hysteria to euphoria.
K-12 has gotten north of $75 billion in borrowed stimulus funds in the past couple years...and is now faced with trimming about $3 billion a year in federal outlays. Horrors. How should K-12 officials respond to the need to cut a fraction of one percent of K-12 spending? Like adults. They should recognize that the feds can't keep spending borrowed funds at the rate we have been, appreciate the wad of federal cash they got in Obama's first term, and pledge to trim spending in smart ways. By the way: if K-12 leaders focus on making it clear that they're committed to using limited funds wisely and well, they may be pleasantly surprised by the response.