Budget 101: “Fiscal Cliff” Cuts Will Sting for Women and Girls

December 19, 2012

Piggy Bank with back to school messageWelcome back to the Budget 101 blog series, where we explore the federal budget and how it affects Americans’ lives. In this installment, we’ll look into the possible cuts to important domestic programs that would occur if we go over the “fiscal cliff.”

AAUW believes that any agreement made in Washington must take a balanced approach and not include further cuts to critical nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs that expand educational and workforce training opportunities, defend civil rights, protect women’s health, and promote gender diversity. NDD programs have already been cut to reduce the deficit, and AAUW strongly believes future cuts should come from other budget areas, such as Pentagon spending. An analysis by a nonpartisan organization found that there is no room to make additional NDD cuts “without threatening the government’s ability to provide crucial benefits and services and perform core public functions.”

If we go over the fiscal cliff and the dramatic cuts known as “sequestration” happen, women and girls will feel the impact. For example

  • K–12 funding would be reduced, meaning fewer teachers, larger class sizes, and reduced resources for school mental health counseling, anti-bullying programs, and other safety programs.
  • Higher education programs would be cut, affecting Pell Grants and student aid opportunities and limiting students’ ability to access postsecondary education. Although Pell Grants are exempt from the first round of sequestration and would therefore not face automatic cuts, the program actually needs additional funding just to continue serving current participants.
  • Women seeking workforce training would be hurt. Department of Labor programs fund the Women’s Bureau, One-Stop Career Centers, and other efforts that provide grants to help unemployed workers retrain for their industry or enter nontraditional fields. Cutting these programs means workers won’t get that training, and our economy will continue to suffer.
  • Women and girls’ civil rights protections would be in danger. The sequester would automatically cut funding for federal civil rights agencies, reducing their ability to enforce the law. An across-the-board cut would mean that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would have fewer resources to enforce fair pay protections and that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights would have less agency to enforce Title IX’s protections against gender-based discrimination.
  • Critical civil rights data would be lost. For example, AAUW relies on the American Community Survey and other surveys for our research on the gender pay gap; women’s underrepresentation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); and other issues that hinder gender equity and civil rights in our society. Policy makers need this information to make informed decisions.
  • Women’s health would be endangered, as funding cuts would reduce the number of women able to access the Title X Family Planning Program. This program, which was signed into law by President Nixon, provides reproductive health services to low-income women. Cutting it would make it difficult for those women to access necessary medical care.
  • Programs that promote gender diversity in STEM would be threatened. Despite substantial progress since the enactment of Title IX in 1972, women remain underrepresented in STEM careers. Cutting programs that encourage girls’ engagement would likely lead to further stagnation or even declines.

AAUW is a nonpartisan organization, but we’re also multi-partisan, representing a variety of political affiliations and viewpoints. Despite our differences, AAUW members come together to get things done and serve our communities. Congress should do the same. Decisions about our nation’s budget and deficit will only get harder if a solution is deferred. Take action and tell your representative and senators to protect these important programs!

Beth Scott By:   |   December 19, 2012

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