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Illinois' Koch Paints a Hairy, Scary Scenario

By guest blogger Andrew Ujifusa

In an effort to give looming cuts to the U.S. Department of Education a higher profile, Illinois Superintendent of Education Christopher Koch decided at this week's meeting of state chiefs to merge a monster and a medical procedure into one hair-raising joke.

During a March 26 panel discussion on the funding situation for states at the Council of Chief State School Officers' legislative conference in Washington, Koch highlighted the concerns states were having over the potential impact of sequestration. This refers to the automatic cuts the education department is facing on Jan. 2 (which could total $3.5 billion) due to the inability of the congressional "supercommittee" to reach a deal on deficit reduction last year. Title I and special education funding are two programs that could be hard-hit if sequestration goes into effect.

In his panel remarks, Koch complained that sequestration and its potential impact on states was not being discussed much outside of Washington. Perhaps this was due, Koch theorized, to the word's difficult pronunciation.

Koch said he would use two words in combination, "Sasquatch" and "castration," to properly explain the term.

This punchline got hearty (if somewhat chagrined) laughter from the state school chiefs present, although the words were not repeated during the rest of the discussion. New Mexico Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera, for example, obliquely referred to Koch's joke by mentioning the "s" and "c" words in subsequent discussion.

Other fantastical creatures, such as the Loch Ness monster, the Jersey Devil, and the Mongolian Death Worm, did not make it into the discussion, unfortunately.

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