Federal education cuts via 'sequester' will hurt Lincoln County's students

It's a television scene familiar to most of us over 20 years old:

Wile E. Coyote buys himself an ACME catapult and assembles it, aiming a huge, red rock to land on a black "X" where he anticipates the elusive Roadrunner will pass by.

As Coyote lies in wait, licking his chops, Roadrunner blazes down the road toward the "X." Right on cue, Coyote pulls his trigger rope, but nothing happens.

After a few more unproductive yanks on the rope, Coyote begins to examine his contraption. As he stands on the X, staring up at the rock, the trigger snaps and Coyote is crushed by his own trap.

Our federal government could learn quite a few lessons from Wile E. Coyote — namely, that it should stop behaving so much like him.

Back in 2011, our Wile E. Congress set up its own booby trap — the "Budget Control Act." It was a complex gadget also known as the "sequester," and it was designed to help catch the roadrunner of deficit reduction.

Nearly everyone in Congress agreed spending had to be brought under control, but no one was willing to compromise on a solution, so they set up the Budget Control Act as a way to force themselves to take action.

If Congress could not come to an agreement on reasonable budget controls, the act was set up to trigger a huge ACME bomb of indiscriminate cuts to things no reasonable person would cut, including airport flight safety; making sure meat is safe to eat; and education for preschoolers and special-needs kids.

The plan was for all sides to unite against these cuts and join forces to actually catch the roadrunner of deficit reduction.

But we all know what actually happened — the deadline approached, reasonability was nowhere to be seen, and, right on cue, the sequester contraption launched its painful payload directly at the American people.

The elusive, financial roadrunner is still out there, somewhere, meep-meeping its head off at our stupidity.

And just like Wile E. never learns from his mistakes, we haven't changed our tunes. We're no closer to finding common ground and solving our real problems, even as national headlines continue to detail the ever-growing number of ways our lives are being impacted negatively by the sequester on a daily basis.

Congress has allowed a handful of departments some grace in making their cuts and made some exceptions when public pressure became to great. But one of the less fortunate departments — education — is still being forced to make substantial, painful cuts that hit home here in Lincoln County.

Federal funding for Lincoln's school district has been on the decline for many years, but this coming year, the sequester cuts are dog-piling on top of other cuts to make things really awful for Lincoln County.

Sequester cuts of 9 percent to HeadStart (preschool) and special education are helping create the need to slash more than 22 positions from those budgets next school year.

And even though school budgets are already bottoming out, the sequester doesn't stop after one year — school funding will be cut year after year for the next four years if nothing is done.

The weight of fixing our nation's federal budget problems should not be falling on the shoulders of Lincoln County's 4- and 5-year-olds. But that's what is happening.

In other states, HeadStart programs have had to be cut entirely thanks to the sequester, and now tens of thousands of children are going to be preschool-less.

If sequester cuts persist long-term, it's possible Lincoln County could meet the same fate.

The worst thing about this is that it is a very fixable problem. Congress has already fixed some budget cut issues created by the sequester, most notably last week, when legislators passed bipartisan legislation restoring previously cut air-traffic-controller positions.