The "fiscal cliff" government cuts, called sequestration cuts, will go into effect in January if Democrats and Republicans in Congress cannot reach a workable deal.

These cuts will go across the board and include defense spending as well as social and safety net programs. Everyone's taxes will go up as the Bush tax cuts will expire.

One area that will be particularly hard hit will be education as 8.4 percent of all federal education dollars will be cut. Federal dollars fund programs like Title 1, special education and Head Start. It's estimated that a total of $59 million could be lost in Indiana

Here are some other examples of what cuts would mean:

• For every $1 million of federal aid districts receive, they would lose $82,000; and for every 5,000 students enrolled, districts would lose about $300,000.

• The impact of an 8.2 percent cut to programs such as Title I grants for disadvantaged students would mean a cut of more than $1 billion, affecting nearly two million students.  

• Special education grants would be reduced by more than $900 million, impacting nearly 500,000 children with disabilities.

• Grants to school districts would be cut, and most of the cuts would be effective for the 2013-14 school year.

Cuts to education programs would most likely mean increased class sizes and less access to programs for children with special needs, as well as summer school, early childhood education and after-school programming, according to one school administrator from central Indiana.

All of this would be counterproductive to the nation's welfare. These federal programs were put in place originally because states couldn't or wouldn't pick up the cost of making sure all students had access to education. The federal money ensured that those students traditionally marginalized - Title 1 and special education - would have more of an equal opportunity in school.

The loss of funds will dilute these programs to the point that school systems might have to once again pick and choose who gets an education.

Cutting education means curtailing one of the nation's future investments. The more dollars put into education, the better the return.

And federal dollars inject fairness into a state's educational makeup.

There needs to be some reasoned debate, and there isn't a lot of time to do that. Congress will have to make a decision soon. What congressional members decide could negatively impact the face of American education if they're not careful.