Education Secretary Arne Duncan says a West Virginia school district is laying off teachers due to deep spending cuts across the federal government set to take effect on Friday. But officials from that region say it's not true.
Duncan told reporters at the White House on Wednesday that the Kanawha County school system was already handing out pink slips in anticipation of the automatic cuts that, among other things, will impact the amount of federal money states get through September.
"Yes, there's a district where it's happened. But, again, it's just because they have an earlier union notification than most - Kanawha County, West Virginia," Duncan said at the latest White House briefing where Cabinet officers detailed the impact of cuts under the so-called congressional sequester to their agency programs.
"Whether it's all sequester-related, I don't know, but these are teachers who are getting pink slips now," he added.
But Diane Young, the coordinator of the Head Start program for Kanawha County Public Schools, cautioned that Duncan's explanation does not get an "A" for accuracy.
Young blamed Head Start. She said the federal program for needy children has yet to notify the school system whether it will have Head Start money in the fall.
"The Board of Education cannot wait that long for the funds to come through," Young said.
Kanawha County receives nearly $3 million in Head Start money each year. Without any kind of funding notification from Head Start, Young told CNN the school system must plan to do without the program in the fall.
"It's a huge hit," Young said.
As a result of the funding uncertainty, the school system is planning to layoff 16 teachers and 12 teaching assistants. But it has not done so, yet.
Currently, more than 600 children are enrolled in the county's Head Start program.
But Young said it's possible the school system has yet to hear from Head Start due to the drama over the automatic budget cuts in Washington.
"It's a possibility," Young said.