U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge of Lillington and the governor met Thursday with school administrators at Southern High School in Durham.
The trio of Democrats say thousands of North Carolina teachers will be cut this year as state and local governments work to meet requirements to balance their budgets.
Duncan says keeping the standard of education high in America is critical.
"Children aren't competing in Raleigh or Durham or in the county or in the state for jobs anymore. Our children across this country are competing for jobs against children in India and China," he said.
Duncan says teachers could be saved from layoff notices if Congress approves a spending plan that passed the U.S. House last week and will be waiting when the Senate returns from its Memorial Day break.
"I can't overstate how important this is," he said. "People keep asking me what is our Plan B? I don't have a plan B. Plan B is children around the country get hurt."
Perdue says North Carolina needs federal help to avoid education cuts.
"My fall back plan is to do what it takes to balance the budget. I will do that. The constitution requires me to do that, but I am asking my congressional delegation, North Carolina's congressional delegation and both of our US senators, to do what's right for our people," she said.
But congressional leaders warn the jobs bill is not a done deal.
"I've got to believe it's attainable. It's doable. It's something we need to do and should do," said Etheridge.
And they'll need to do it while improving classroom standards. Frustrated school administrators spoke out Thursday - concerned for student performance and limited resources.
A Superior Court judge overseeing the state's worst performing schools asked Duncan to push for year-round assessments - not just end of grade scores.
"You've got to have teachers that understand the standard course of study, but the assessment is a piece of the learning process that if you don't do it, as Secretary Duncan said, how are you gonna know where that child is? It's just simply common sense," offered Judge Howard Manning