Briefing reporters at the White House, Duncan listed a series of cuts that would come in the departments biggest areas: $400 million from early childhood education, affecting 70,000 children and 14,000 teachers; $725 million from a fund for poor children, which would affect 10,000 teachers; $600 million from special education, which would affect 7,200 teachers, $86 million in higher education, which means that 70,000 college students might go without grants and work study; and $60 million from areas or regions where Native Americans and military families live.
"For us to be thinking about taking steps backwards in all of these areas because folks in Washington cant get their act together in a level of dysfunction in Congress that its just like unimaginable to me," Duncan said. "I cant tell you how troubling that is to me and, frankly, how angry it makes me feel."
He added that public school systems across the nation would be forced to lay off teachers and shorten the school year in some places. He said that one county in West Virginia already had issued pink slips in anticipation of the cuts.
But when pressed by a reporter, he said he wasnt sure whether the layoffs were related to the reductions. "Whether its all sequester-related, I dont know, but these are teachers who are getting pink slips now," he said.
The administration and House Republicans are deadlocked over finding an alternative to the $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years scheduled to start taking effect soon.
Obama has urged Congress to delay the cuts by passing a package of $930 billion in spending cuts and $580 billion in new tax revenue over 10 years by eliminating loopholes that benefit the wealthy and certain industries.
The Senate is expected to vote Thursday on a Democratic sequester alternative that would postpone cuts to Jan. 2, 2014; replace reductions through a minimum 30 percent phased-in tax rate on incomes between $1 million and $2 million; eliminate loopholes for businesses that move jobs overseas; cut $27.5 billion from defense; and cut $27.5 billion over 10 years by eliminating direct payments to large farmers.
The House has passed two alternatives focused entirely on spending cuts that died in the Democratic-controlled Senate.