Duncan says he misspoke about ‘pink slips’ for teachers ahead of sequester

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Monday he misspoke when he recently claimed schools were already firing teachers in anticipation of sequester cuts taking effect.

"When I said 'pink slips' that was probably the wrong word," Duncan said to reporters, according to multiple reports. "Language matters, and I need to be very, very clear."

The $85 billion in across-the-board spending reductions took effect on Friday after the White House and congressional lawmakers were unable to reach a deal to avert the automatic cuts.

Duncan said last week that a number of school districts around the country had already begun laying off teachers in anticipation to the cuts.

He was one of a number of Cabinet officials, who joined President Obama, in warning of the dire consequences of the cuts taking effect. Republicans, though, countered that the administration was attempting to scare the public in an effort to tilt negotiations over a replacement bill.

Duncan had specifically mentioned the Kanawha County school district in West Virginia as an example of a school that had begun firing staff because of the sequester. 

According to the Washington Post, however, officials in Kanawha County disputed that claim. District administrators said that while the sequester cuts would hurt the country, they would have cut jobs whether or not the sequester was triggered. 

The sequester cuts are unlikely to touch most of the country's school districts. 

On Monday, Duncan walked back his warnings.

"Because I wasn't as clear, the spotlight was put on me and that's never ever my goal," Duncan said according to CNN. 

"My goal here is to have the spotlight be on children and families, so when I said 'pink slips' that was probably the wrong word,” he added. “I should've used 'job eliminations,' 'positions eliminated.'"

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