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Arne Duncan on Sequester: No Choice But to Cut Title I, Special Ed.

The Obama administration continued to turn up the volume on the magnitude of the sequestration cuts by bringing U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan before the White House press corps today to outline what will happen if these across-the-board cuts take effect next month.

He warned of $725 million in cuts to Title I, and $600 million to special education.

He hinted at layoff notices that are already going out, and when pressed by reporters, cited one district in West Virginia that has already sent out layoff notices, and warned that more will flood the zone in March and April.

UPDATE 3:52 P.M.: The Washington Post calls not-so-fast on that one. Turns out, those layoff notices in that West Virginia have nothing to do with sequestration. And today's briefing wasn't the first time Duncan has pulled out the pink-slip rhetoric. "Schools are already starting to give teachers notices," Duncan told EdWeek and a small group of national reporters in an interview last week. "I was getting calls yesterday; people are starting to get RIF notices based upon the fear of sequestration." Yet when I asked the National Education Association about this last week, they said that those notices will go out in force starting next month, but mostly in April. Given the fact-checking that now's starting, it will be interesting to see if Duncan continues to talk about pink slips and sequestration.

Back to today's White House briefing.

To the critics who say he has discretion within his agency to mitigate the harmful effects of cuts, he replied: "It's not true." He said "there's nowhere to go" except to cut Title I and special education funding, which together comprise $25 billion of the department's budget. "You're hurting poor kids or you're hurting special needs."

More immediately, he said he's going to participate in a call tomorrow with superintendents who will be hit the hardest by impact-aid cuts.

(If it makes you feel any better, U.S. Rep. John Kline, the Republican chairman of the House education committee, doesn't think the cuts will be in place for very long.)

For more information about any of this, please see Alyson's stellar FAQ post on sequestration.

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