Washington (CNN) - Education Secretary Arne Duncan says President Obama "absolutely supports" a congressional proposal for $23 billion in emergency education spending in order to stave off teacher layoffs and cancellation of summer classes.
Duncan told CNN Wednesday that the emergency spending request is needed to head off "an education catastrophe, " in which as many as 300-thousand teachers across the country could be laid off.
Duncan also said that without the extra spending, some school districts will be forced to eliminate summer school and after-school programs.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. George Miller, D-California, are behind the bid in the Senate and House to approve the extra spending.
Duncan has asked Congress to add the money to an emergency spending measure, being considered this week, that would fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The top Republican on the House Education committee, Rep. Jon Kline, R-Minnesota, opposes the request, charging that it would worsen the nation's long-term fiscal stability by adding another $23 billion to the federal deficit.
Because of concerns over the growing federal budget deficit, congressional supporters of the measure have questioned President Obama's commitment. But Duncan declared that President Obama is "a hundred percent supportive" of the emergency spending.
Duncan said he believes most taxpayers would support the added federal spending because "this is an emergency...no one wants to see class size go from 25 to 40, no one wants to see summer school eliminated particularly for disadvantaged kids."
Duncan urged Congress to quickly provide the extra spending: "This is not something Congress can debate for four or five months. We need to act and we need to act now. "