WASHINGTON (AP) -- As President Barack Obama pushes for an expansion of preschool programs during a visit to Georgia, his education secretary is warning senators that pending budget cuts in those programs could be devastating to current students.
Arne (AR'-nee) Duncan says the cuts could hurt the nation's economy for years to come.
In testimony for a Senate panel, Duncan said cutting early childhood education is "economically foolish and morally indefensible."
Obama's State of the Union speech included a call for enlarging programs such as Head Start. But unless lawmakers are able to avoid a budget meltdown, one out of every 13 students already in Head Start classrooms is at risk of being kicked out.
Duncan says the cuts could put some 10,000 teachers out of work, and force an additional 14,000 head start workers to be laid off. He says 1.2 million students from low-income families would have their schools' funding cuts.
But Republicans have questioned the effectiveness of Head Start programs. They cite studies such as one from the Health and Human Services Department last year. It showed that while at-risk students who were enrolled in pre-kindergarten programs saw tremendous gains in vocabulary and social development, those benefits largely faded by the time they reached third grade.
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