Thursday, February 28, 2013

Arne Duncan's Education 'Sequester' Claims Questioned

This from Politics K-12:
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has long been seen as an administration asset. But this past week, he's also been the chief spokesman for the White House claims about the potential impact of sequestration on education jobs. Now those estimates have run afoul of fact-checkers—and that could ultimately undermine the administration's effort to make education a poster child when it comes to the impact of sequestration on domestic programs.

Some background: On Sunday, the White House released a set of claims about the number of jobs that would be lost due to sequestration. We told readers that the numbers were very hard to prove or disprove—the number of actual jobs or positions lost will depend a lot on how districts decide to implement the cuts. (That information was also in our Sequestration FAQ.)...
But, even though it's too early to really get a handle on just how many, if any, education jobs will be lost thanks to the federal cut, administration officials have insisted on going out with job-loss estimates. And now it's beginning to bite them in the rear. 

Yesterday, the Washington Post put Duncan through the fact-check ringer—giving him "Four Pinnochios" for his statements about pink slips already going out to teachers, which is what the education secretary told Politics K-12's Michele and other reporters last week.

For the most part, districts haven't sent out staff-reduction notices yet. The lag makes sense since districts are just beginning to do their budgets. Most haven't yet figured out whether the federal cuts are likely to lead to layoffs or frozen positions. But the truth, which is that the sequester makes programmatic cuts and layoffs possible or likely, doesn't make for nearly as snappy a sound bite. The Post even compared Duncan's statements to Susan Rice's comments on Libya, which ultimately doomed her bid for Secretary of State. Ouch.

Already, Republicans on the Hill are seizing the moment. GOP staff on the Senate Finance Committee sent around the Post's initial fact check in an email to reporters with the subject-line "Shame On Them."

Will the perception that Duncan and the White House are inflating the job loss estimates ultimately hurt the administration's—and advocates'—push to ensure that pending education cuts should be part of the sequester debate? 

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