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Education secretary says comments about teachers losing jobs inaccurate

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addresses a crowd of teachers and politicians during an event to bring physical activity back to sch
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addresses a crowd of teachers and politicians during an event to bring physical activity back to sch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Education Secretary Arne Duncan said on Monday he had made inaccurate comments about teachers losing their jobs due to mandatory budget cuts and that he had been trying to point out the dire effects spending reductions would have on schools.

The $85 billion in across-the-board budget reductions, known as sequestration, started on Friday. Although the economic impact has not been felt as yet, President Barack Obama and his cabinet secretaries have been warning lawmakers of heavy fallout, including lengthy airport delays and meat shortages.

"Language matters. I need to be very, very clear and I should have been clearer," Duncan told reporters.

A week ago Duncan said on television: "there are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices that they can't come back this fall." That assertion was questioned by Republicans, and by reporters when Duncan appeared in the White House briefing room last week to warn of sequestration cuts.

"My point was that the impact of sequester was already being felt on children and communities around the country ... My point is that the impact going forward is going to be even more severe," Duncan said at another event to discuss the fallout from the cuts.

Schools that rely on federal funds, such as those serving Native American students and children of military members, have already been hit by the sequester, their superintendents said at the same event in Washington.

Not knowing whether they will get the additional federal funding, superintendents have had to trim their budgets by closing schools and not buying books or replacing staff that retire.

(Reporting By Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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