National Press Club

Duncan Calls Education a "Critical Investment" for Future

October 1, 2013 | By Robert Webb | rewebb@aol.com

Education Secretary Arne Duncan prepares to give his remarks before the Sept. 30 Club Luncheon. Duncan discussed the challenges facing today's students and his second term goals.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan prepares to give his remarks before the Sept. 30 Club Luncheon. Duncan discussed the challenges facing today's students and his second term goals.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan challenged Congress to "see education as a critical investment for our nation winning the race for the future" at a Sept. 30 Club Luncheon.

"Right now, I believe our country faces stark choices," he said. "We can continue to play politics with the budget and the debt ceiling, or we can fund a federal government that Americans can count on.'' He said ``other countries get this, they're greatly expanding preschool and strengthening teacher preparation."

He cited case after case of U.S. school systems raising educational standards and preparing their students for college. ``It's
hard, it's tough,'' he said. ``This is all of us as parents saying 'We want our children to be able to compete in a globally competitive economy.'

"In the year after they raised standards, Tennessee saw the biggest single year jump in scores that they'd seen in a long, long time," he said.

For all the progress in systems raising standards across America, Duncan said the dropout rate remains highest in minority communities. He said about two-thirds of community college students need remedial classes. Only one in five African-Americans age 25 or older has at least a bachelor's degree, and it's even lower for Hispanics, he said. Duncan, who formerly headed the Chicago school system, said colleges must become more affordable.

Duncan saluted teachers who "are leading a much needed transformation of the entire profession. If we've learned one thing from other high performing countries is we must get better at recruiting and training our nation's teachers, he said. Teachers should be paid "on par with other professions,'' and school districts should ``reward those remarkable teachers who are producing outsized student gains and taking on the toughest of assignments."

Republicans and Democrats should "stand up to the ideologues an extremists in our own parties,'' he said. ``We can all show real courage and chose to lead rather than follow. There are plenty of smart, goodhearted Republican leaders. There are many GOP governors doing the right thing. They know that education is the best bet for America."