Federal education officials are warning of some very deep cuts to school funding if lawmakers can't stop sequestration.
Hundreds of principals from across the country got that message first hand from Education Secretary Arne Duncan at a conference for the National Association of Secondary School Principals at the National Harbor Thursday.
Duncan told the principals that the cuts to education would be devastating, to the tune of $3 billion over the next several years.
That is tens of thousands of jobs lost, and even more children who would not be served by local schools.
"70,000 children could lose their access to Head Start, [kindergarten through 12th grade], where children with special needs and poor children would lose access to resources. We could lose tens of thousands of teachers," Duncan says.
Gaithersburg High School Principal Christine Handy Collins is worried.
"We're looking at teachers being cut, class sizes getting bigger, programs being cut," Collins says.
The head of Patapsco High School in Baltimore County says principals are already feeling the pinch, and sequestration only adds to the sting of it all.
"One of the things I tend to be concerned about is funding for special education, some of the title funds that come our way, and staffing in a general sense," says Ryan Imbriale.
In Maryland, 800 kids would be eliminated from Head Start. Another 1,000 kids would be cut in Virginia. And in DC, more than 200 children would be eliminated from Head Start.
And with program cuts, it also means job cuts, which are weighing heavily on the principal of Potomac Falls High School in Loudoun County.
"Our funding tends to happen a year earlier, so I think we're set for this year, but I do worry about staffing next year and down the road," says Janice Koslowski.
Education Secretary Duncan says lawmakers need to act before pink slips start showing up on teacher's classroom doors.
"I desperately hope Congress will come together, will compromise, will find common ground," he says. "We have to invest in education. The path to the middle class runs straight through the classroom. We have to do the right thing here."