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February 27, 2013

Duncan: Spending cuts will cause thousands of layoffs, shorter school calendars

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday that the looming federal spending cuts, slated to go into effect Friday, will force school systems across the nation to layoff teachers and shorten the school yearin some places.

Duncan said one county in West Virginia has already issued pink slips in anticipation of the cuts. But when pressed by a reporter, he said he wasn't sure if the layoffs were related to the reductions. "Whether it's all sequester-related, I don't know, but these are teachers who are getting pink slips now," he said.

Duncan listed a series of cuts that will come in the department's biggest areas: $400 million from early childhood education, affecting 70,000 children, and 14,000 teachers; $725 million from a fun for poor children, which would impact 10,000 teachers; $600 million from special education, which would impact 7,200 teachers, $86 million in higher education, which means 70,000 college students could go without grants and work study, and $60 million from area that serve Native Americans and military families.

"For us to be thinking about taking steps backwards in all of these areas because folks in Washington can't get their act together in a level of dysfunction in Congress that -- it's just like unimaginable to me," Duncan said."I can't tell you how troubling that is to me and, frankly, how angry it makes me feel."

Duncan was the latest Cabinet secretary to speak to reporters in recent days as the White House continues to try to warn of potential damaging spending cuts.

He said education cuts will start immediately and through the spring and fall.

Duncan said flexibility in what he cuts, as some Republicans on Capitol Hill want to provide, would not help.

"There's a no-win proposition there," he said. "There's no good answer. There's nothing I could do to come up with a smarter way to do this. You're, you know, hurting poor kids or hurting kids with special needs, one way -- you know, either way you go."

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