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The Government Shutdown and Education

Several government-run education websites are offline, and U.S. Department of Education Twitter accounts posted messages early today saying the accounts won’t be updated during the shutdown — but what effect will the shutdown have on students and schools?

According to POLITICO, as long as the shutdown is resolved quickly, the effects should be minimal. “A longer shutdown, though, could lead to a big paperwork backlog and problems for schools, colleges and students that receive federal funds.” Read more from POLITICO here.

Education Week has answers to some frequently asked questions about the shutdown here. Another Education Week blog post says a temporary shutdown isn’t much of a concern for schools compared with what could happen if Congress doesn’t deal with the debt ceiling.

The feds are slated to hit the debt ceiling in mid-October and a default—even a brief one—is likely to have major ramifications.

“That’s a much more serious, broader economic concern,” said Clare McCann, a policy analyst for the New America Foundation. A downgrading of the U.S. credit score, which happened the last time the country nearly defaulted, could have implications for districts’ credit ratings, for instance.

And if a default shakes the overall economy, schools could feel a serious squeeze, she added. Districts were largely able to blunt the impacts of sequestration (those across-the-board cuts to domestic and military programs) in part because the brightening state and local fiscal forecast meant policymakers were able to boost K-12 spending to make up for the federal cuts.

But another economic downturn means all bets are off, McCann said, “This would be another hit on top of all the other [blows] we’re current dealing to schools.”

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