Arne Duncan on American education: ‘We have a crisis on multiple levels’

As states across the country struggle with huge budget deficits, there may be no area more controversial than proposed cuts in education spending.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie eliminated about $800 million in state education aid, but this week a superior court judge ruled those cuts unconstitutional. In Texas, thousands rallied in Austin to protest proposed cuts of $10 billion to education. While in Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer is trying to coax legislative Republicans in her state to back off plans to cut state aid to education.

All of this comes as the federal government is calling for a change in education policy. The Obama administration has announced that it wants an overhaul of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was in New York last week for an international summit on teaching — Need to Know’s Jon Meacham sat down with him asked him about American students’ achievement rankings compared to students in other nations.

 

Comments

  • Disappointed in PBS!

    I was deeply disappointed by Jon Meacham’s unquestioning and passive “interview” with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on tonight’s edition of “Need to Know.” Duncan repeated his standard pap about American student’s achievement rankings compared to students in other nations, and how we need to retain the best teachers in these troubled financial times– regardless of when they were hired, and clueless Meacham smiled benignly in the background, his head going up and down like a bubble toy.

    It would have been a good thing if Meacham did more than simply swallow Arne’s bland, bloated (and on my television, out of sync words). We don’t exactly have the educational “crisis” Duncan and his “reformer’s” would have you believe. We have a “crisis of poverty.” Middle class children in the US do just as well as the world’s top performers. Letting teachers go must be on the basis of seniority; it is the fairest, cheapest, and most objective, and least political way to deal with a sad choice.

  • texas

    Seniority was a simplistic solution to problem from our past that needs adjusting to our new world of accountability and availability of comprehensive data. We need to find a solution that is more in tune with today. Seniority should be one of the factors when deciding lay offs but not the only one.

  • Solutions

    It would be enlightening to hear Mr. Duncan cite examples of how other countries have “outworked” us, and I would like to know specifically who he means by “us.” This is quite an insult to educators, parents, and students if he really believes that these people as entire groups don’t work hard. This attitude that schools are filled with lazy, uncommitted teachers and students is counter-productive to improving the things that are wrong with education.

  • Reverendchild

    The “fairest, cheapest, and most objective, and least political way” to survive funding cuts is to base it on senority instead of straight-up performance capability? I have to confess that this isn’t something I’ve spent days, or even hours considering… but from this layman’s point of view, that idea reeks of irony.
    Fair: Suppose the new teacher’s really reaching the kids. Their grades are soaring, and they’re retaining the knowledge. Meanwhile, say that a given old salt sleeps through half the class, safe in his or her tenure and utterly indifferent to the kids themselves. How is it remotely fair to fire the new one, under that circumstance?
    Cheap: What, we pay our teachers LESS as they accrue tenure? This is the perfect opposite of reality.
    Most objective: Somehow, I doubt this argument has nothing whatsoever to do with objectivity, and everything to do with personal interest. Call me crazy, but… (le shrug)
    Least political: LOL See “most objective.” To even try to sell the idea that one’s value at a job is unrelated to one’s performance… that IS politics at its very worst.
    And what’s borderline horrifying is that you’ve gotta know it. A third grader could figure out that much. Come on.

  • Reverendchild

    The “fairest, cheapest, and most objective, and least political way” to survive funding cuts is to base it on senority instead of straight-up performance capability? I have to confess that this isn’t something I’ve spent days, or even hours considering… but from this layman’s point of view, that idea reeks of irony.
    Fair: Suppose the new teacher’s really reaching the kids. Their grades are soaring, and they’re retaining the knowledge. Meanwhile, say that a given old salt sleeps through half the class, safe in his or her tenure and utterly indifferent to the kids themselves. How is it remotely fair to fire the new one, under that circumstance?
    Cheap: What, we pay our teachers LESS as they accrue tenure? This is the perfect opposite of reality.
    Most objective: Somehow, I doubt this argument has nothing whatsoever to do with objectivity, and everything to do with personal interest. Call me crazy, but… (le shrug)
    Least political: LOL See “most objective.” To even try to sell the idea that one’s value at a job is unrelated to one’s performance… that IS politics at its very worst.
    And what’s borderline horrifying is that you’ve gotta know it. A third grader could figure out that much. Come on.

  • jan

    I’m going to butt in here. “Seniority” is a synonym for “experienced”. Enthusiasm is good but experience is more important when educating children.

    A secret: If you want your children to learn, show their teachers some respect and support at home in front of the kids. Make sure your child knows you talk to the teacher when you drop by school to pick up the child. Go above and beyond parent teacher conferences. Let the teacher know you support them and have an interest in your child’s education. They usually respond.

    Another secret: Not all schools are broken. I can’t speak for big city schools but I know for a fact that small town schools may not have had as much equipment as the big city schools but they found a way to produce our current mathematicians, physicians, and bankers.

    Someone may want to consider the possibility that like Too Big To Fail, our big city schools have become Too Big to Succeed. Let’s face it. School consolidation was about impressing the heck out of ourselves. The gas spent busing kids across town, the time wasted on the bus, huge class sizes that are more difficult for the teacher to control, failure to pay enough taxes to supply the kids with books and other educational materials in the classroom. None of those things were ever intended to educate the kids.

    Mr. Duncan may have a nice, expensive shirt and suit but given his attempts to privatize our school system and his public disrespect and disdain toward teachers, I find I cannot respect him and I’m not even a teacher.

  • Ozziebanicki

     There is no difference between the Bush and Obama education reform but rhetoric.  They both focus on competing test scores to decide one up-man-ship.  The needs of the student for a foundation of growth, not immediate international classroom competition for bragging rights of politicians. oz7.com