‘U.S. schools brace for federal funding cuts’

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Unless Congress acts by March 1, a wall of indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts will come crashing down on students and schools alike. The cuts, more than $3 billion, would affect millions of students in special education, Head Start and early childhood learning, and trigger a loss of nearly 80,000 educator jobs.

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Schools across the country are sending out pink slips as they brace for the possibility of deep federal budget cuts that could take effect next week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Thursday.

Duncan criticized Congress for failing to reach a deal to stop the across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration, which could force thousands of teachers out of their jobs.

“There’s no one in their right mind who would say that this is good for kids or good for the country, yet somehow it becomes tenable in Washington,” Duncan said. He said that “there is no fix” to mitigate the impact of the cuts.

Federal officials estimate that they will be forced to trim more than $1.3 billion in education spending, most of which goes toward programs for poor children and students with disabilities.

Most schools would not face the full effect of those cuts until the fall. But schools that receive more federal aid — including Department of Defense-run schools and those on Indian reservations — are likely to feel the squeeze immediately, which could mean shorter school weeks in spring or a shorter school year.

“These are two populations that we owe more to, not less,” Duncan told a group of reporters in Washington, “and those cuts are going to kick in quicker.”

Read the entire story in today’s Washington Post.

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