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March Sequester Takes $58 Million from IL Schools

Chicago protesters compare military spending to domestic spending. Courtesy of American Friends Service Committee.

Chicago protesters compare military spending to domestic spending. Courtesy of American Friends Service Committee.


February 26, 2013

CHICAGO - The sequester is scheduled to start going into effect on Friday. According to a new White House analysis, Illinois will lose $58 million from education, and hundreds of teachers and special education assistants could lose their jobs.

Republican leaders accuse the President of exaggerating the effect of the cuts, but Mary Zerkel, whose daughter attends Chicago Public Schools, disagreed. She said domestic spending shouldn't have to bear the brunt of the cuts.

"It is going to hurt people," she charged. "And these programs have already sustained cuts, I think like 17.9 percent cuts in the 2010-2012 period, while the defense budget more than doubled since 1998."

Zerkel, who works with the American Friends Service Committee's Wage Peace Campaign, said defense spending takes up a much larger share of the budget than education and other social programs, so she thinks it has more waste to cut.

Chris Hellman, a research analyst with the National Priorities Project, agreed that there is much more fat to trim in defense.

"The Congressional Budget Office has looked at the defense budget and said 'Even if you put sequestration into place with regards to defense, it would only return spending to the levels that they were in 2006.' And those are high by historical standards," Hellman said.

Mary Zerkel pointed to the F-35 fighter jet. The planes were grounded last week for the second time in two months after a crack was found in an engine blade.

"If you just took one and a half of those planes, $610 million dollars per plane: if you just took one and a half of those planes, you could close the entire Chicago Public Schools' deficit of one billion dollars," Zerkel declared.

The F-35 is the Pentagon's largest weapons program.

Zerkel has been participating in Chicago-area educational demonstrations leading up to the sequester, and plans on being out there again at noon Wednesday at Federal Plaza.

White House statistics for Illinois are at WhiteHouse.gov.

More information is at CostOfWar.com.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL