March 1st, 2013
03:20 PM ET

How forced spending cuts could impact students

(CNN) - Forced spending cuts that take effect today will slice $2.5 billion from the Department of Education's nearly $70 billion budget, CNN's René Marsh reports. At the college level, about 70,000 students could lose work study and grant money. The biggest cuts wouldn't take effect until the 2013-14 school year, and Pell grants will be spared.

At the preschool, elementary and secondary levels, the Department of Education expects a $725 million cut to Title I grants, which Education Secretary Arne Duncan estimates will impact 1.2 million disadvantaged students, and put 10,000 teacher and support staff jobs at risk. States and districts might have to cover the cost of 7,200 teachers, aides and staffers as $600 million is cut from the special education, too. Some 70,000 Head Start students might no longer be able to attend classes.

How might the forced spending cuts affect your school? Share your story on iReport!

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Filed under: Arne Duncan • Politics • School budgets
Forced budget cuts lead to teacher layoffs in W. Virginia? Not quite
Arne Duncan's explanation about a school district's layoffs doesn't get an "A" for accuracy.
March 1st, 2013
11:21 AM ET

Forced budget cuts lead to teacher layoffs in W. Virginia? Not quite

By Jim Acosta, CNN

Washington (CNN) – Education Secretary Arne Duncan says a West Virginia school district is laying off teachers due to deep spending cuts across the federal government set to take effect on Friday. But officials from that region say it's not true.

Duncan told reporters at the White House on Wednesday that the Kanawha County school system was already handing out pink slips in anticipation of the automatic cuts that, among other things, will impact the amount of federal money states get through September.

"Yes, there's a district where it's happened. But, again, it's just because they have an earlier union notification than most – Kanawha County, West Virginia," Duncan said at the latest White House briefing where Cabinet officers detailed the impact of cuts under the so-called congressional sequester to their agency programs.

"Whether it's all sequester-related, I don't know, but these are teachers who are getting pink slips now," he added.

But Diane Young, the coordinator of the Head Start program for Kanawha County Public Schools, cautioned that Duncan's explanation does not get an "A" for accuracy.

Young blamed Head Start. She said the federal program for needy children has yet to notify the school system whether it will have Head Start money in the fall.

"The Board of Education cannot wait that long for the funds to come through," Young said.

Read the full post from CNN's Political Ticker blog

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Filed under: Arne Duncan • Politics • School budgets
Report: To close achievement gap, fund schools by need, not ZIP code
A new report calls for school districts to be funded according to need -- not by ZIP code.
February 19th, 2013
06:54 PM ET

Report: To close achievement gap, fund schools by need, not ZIP code

By Sally Holland, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Changing the way schools are funded would help to close the achievement gap between students who live in affluent neighborhoods and those in high poverty areas, according to a report released Tuesday by a congressionally-mandated education committee.

"There is disagreement about exactly how to change the system, but there is complete agreement that achieving equity and excellence requires sufficient resources that are distributed based on student need and that are efficiently used," says "For Each and Every Child," a report by the Equity and Excellence Commission.

A primary source of funding for public schools is local property taxes. The problem: If the school is in a high poverty area, the property taxes tend to be low, and that means less money for the school, and less money to pay teachers.

“Whether a state uses property taxes or not is no excuse for the responsibility a state has to deliver more equitable financing,” said Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, co-chairman of the commission and a professor at Stanford Law School.

The report cites spending disparities as wide as $7,306 per pupil in Tennessee to $19,520 in Wyoming, with adjustment for student poverty, regional wage variation, school district size and density. There are disparities across districts, too - excluding the top 5% of districts in California, spending ranged from $6,032 to $18,025 per pupil there in 2009.


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Filed under: Arne Duncan • Politics • School funding
Education secretary defends No Child Left Behind waivers
“Providing waivers was always, always our Plan B," education Secretary Arne Duncan said.
February 7th, 2013
05:51 PM ET

Education secretary defends No Child Left Behind waivers

By Sally Holland, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Republicans and Democrats in the Senate agreed Thursday that they would prefer a reauthorized education bill that updates school standards, instead of allowing more waivers for states to bypass No Child Left Behind.

The 2001 No Child Left Behind act required that all students meet ambitious reading and math standards by 2014; schools that didn't would be subject to reforms or slashed funding. The standards have gotten tougher over the years and schools are struggling to keep up, or failing entirely. A reauthorized bill would set goals states see as more attainable.

“The bottom line is that it expired in 2007 except for a provision that says if Congress didn’t act, it would continue," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. "Congress didn’t act so it’s continuing. That’s our fault. That’s on us."

In 2011, the White House announced states could apply for waivers that would relieve them from provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or No Child Left Behind, while still giving them access to federal education funding. To get a waiver, they would have to meet standards laid out by the U.S. Department of Education.

The waivers have been controversial among Republicans who object to the stipulations the Obama administration puts onto many states before they're awarded.

"This simple waiver authority has turned into a conditional waiver with the secretary basically having more authority to make decisions that, in my view, should be made locally by state and local governments," Alexander said.


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Filed under: Arne Duncan • NCLB • Politics
Schools must provide sports for students with disabilities, U.S. ed department says
New guidance from the U.S. education department says schools must provide sports for students with disabilities.
January 25th, 2013
12:11 PM ET

Schools must provide sports for students with disabilities, U.S. ed department says

By Brad Lendon, CNN

(CNN) - Schools must give students with disabilities equal opportunities to participate in extracurricular athletics, including varsity sports, the U.S. Department of Education said Friday. And if existing sports don't meet the needs of those students, schools must create additional athletic programs.

Some advocates compared the move to Title IX, the 1972 amendment that mandated gender equity in education and sports programs at schools receiving federal funds. The department’s Office for Civil Rights pointed to a 2010 report from the Government Accountability Office that said disabled students were not getting equal opportunities to participate in sports, a right they were granted under the Rehabilitation Act, passed in 1973.

Denying disabled students’ participation meant that they “may not have equitable access to the health and social benefits” of playing sports, the education department said in a statement Friday.

“Sports can provide invaluable lessons in discipline, selflessness, passion and courage, and this guidance will help schools ensure that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to benefit from the life lessons they can learn on the playing field or on the court,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in the statement accompanying the guidelines.

Examples of the kinds of accommodations the department is seeking included offering a visual cue, along with a starter pistol, to allow deaf students to participate in track races or allowing a one-hand touch to end swimming races, rather than a two-hand touch, which would allow students with only one arm to participate.


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Filed under: Arne Duncan • education • Policy • Special needs • Sports
December 5th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

Longer school day coming for thousands of students

by John Martin, CNN

(CNN) - School's going to be a little longer for about 20,000 U.S. students next year.

On Monday, The U.S. Department of Education, the Ford Foundation and the National Center for Time and Learning (NCTL), announced the formation of the TIME Collaborative. This initiative will support more than 40 selected schools in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee that will be open an additional 300 hours during the 2013-2014 school year. For schools on a 180-day calendar, that would add more than an hour and a half of instruction per day.

The TIME Collaborative, a partnership between NCTL and the Ford Foundation, is funded by federal, state and private funds. NCTL will provide technical support for schools, while the Ford Foundation is offering $3 million in grant funds.

One of the group’s goals is to reduce achievement gaps for children who live in impoverished communities. "More learning time was simply necessary to close opportunity and achievement gaps," David Farbman, senior researcher at NCTL, wrote on the organization’s official blog.

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Filed under: Arne Duncan • Policy • Practice • School funding
Letter-writing campaign shows frustration with Obama education policies
Education Secretary Arne Duncan speaks on the state of education at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 2, 2012.
October 22nd, 2012
04:10 AM ET

Letter-writing campaign shows frustration with Obama education policies

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) Earlier this month, Education Secretary Arne Duncan delivered his state of education speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., which was part self-review of his department’s goals and achievements and part campaign speech for his boss, President Obama.

But not all educators are ardent supporters of the president’s policies, and they are letting him know.

At about the same time Duncan was giving his speech, education historian and professor Diane Ravitch issued a call to teachers, administrators, parents and students to send letters to the president, expressing their sincere views on his education policies.

In her own draft of a letter to President Obama, Ravitch says, “Please, Mr. President, stop talking about rewarding and punishing teachers. Teachers are professionals, not toddlers.”  She also asks the president to “stop encouraging the privatization of education” and to “speak out against the spread of for-profit schools.” She adds “Please withdraw your support from the failed effort to evaluate teachers by the test scores of their students."

Teacher and education activist Anthony Cody volunteered to help gather the correspondence.  In 2009, Cody led the “Teachers’ Letters to Obama” effort and collected about 100 letters. That campaign led to a meeting with Secretary Duncan but no change in education policies.

This month, educators and parents sent correspondence to The Campaign for Our Public Schools website. On October 18, Cody compiled nearly 400 letters, almost three-quarters of these from educators. They were printed, bound and sent to the White House last week. Cody told CNN that “the level of frustration now is even higher” among teachers than it was three years ago.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Arne Duncan • Race to the Top • Teachers • Voices
Education secretary: 'We are at a fork in the road'
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speaks on the state of education at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on October 2, 2012.
October 2nd, 2012
05:32 PM ET

Education secretary: 'We are at a fork in the road'

by Lindy Royce-Bartlett, CNN

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNN) - Education Secretary Arne Duncan believes that America's decision on Election Day will greatly impact the state of education.

"The choice facing our country today is pretty stark.  I believe we are at a fork in the road.  Some folks see education as an expense government can cut in tough economic times," Duncan explained during a luncheon at the National Press Club Tuesday afternoon.  "President Obama and I see education as an investment in our future - the best investment we can make.  Especially - especially in tough economic times."

To get feedback and "take the pulse of people after nearly four years in office," Duncan recently went on a cross-country bus tour themed 'Education Drives America.'  After taking part in over 100 events in twelve states, Duncan says it is clear that "the real work of improving schools doesn't happen in Washington but in cities and towns all across America-where parents, teachers and community leaders work together toward a common goal."

During Tuesday's Q&A session, Duncan was asked what the biggest difference between an Obama and Romney administration in education and he did not mince words.  "I think the difference is pretty clear and frankly it's stark and the country's going to have its say on it: That we fundamentally see education as an investment, and they fundamentally see education as an expense."

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Arne Duncan • Issues • Policy • Voices
September 2nd, 2012
08:04 PM ET

Arne Duncan: Invest in education reform

When it comes to education, Governor Romney and President Obama agree on more than either side will admit.

They both want more charter schools. They both want teacher compensation tied to performance. And they both supported extending low interest rates on Stafford loans that help pay for college.

Where they disagree is on the role of the federal government. Mitt Romney praises some aspects of the Obama administration's Race to the Top program, but he says he would give more control to state and local governments.

The federal government pays for just 12.5% of all elementary and secondary education, and conservatives say the federal government imposes sweeping mandates but leaves others to pay the bill.

In April, Mitt Romney said that if he becomes president, the department of education will be "consolidated with another agency" or will be "a heck of a lot smaller".

So how does Arne Duncan plan to fix the education system? Watch the video from Your Bottom Line to find out!

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Filed under: Arne Duncan • Policy • video • Voices • Your Bottom Line
Education Secretary Duncan takes on bullying
Education Secretary Arne Duncan led the third annual Bullying Prevention Summit in Washington, D.C. this week.
August 8th, 2012
04:02 PM ET

Education Secretary Duncan takes on bullying

by DaShawn Fleming, CNN

(CNN) The Department of Education held its third annual federal Bullying Prevention Summit in Washington, D.C. Monday and Tuesday. The goal of the event was to spread awareness ofand brainstorm initiatives to combat bullying, an ongoing issue facing many students. Bullying can result in tragic consequences including violent attacks, depression, and even suicide. Several notables attended the summit including Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Senior Adviser to President Obama Valerie Jarrett, actress Marlo Thomas and Lady Gaga’s mom, Cynthia Germanotta.

Secretary Duncan made the keynote closing remarks on Tuesday. He urged the importance of adult involvement in students’ lives, saying “I think that our kids need a lot more time with adults”, and insisting that adults work together to “support individuality and empowerment.”

In recent months, President Obama has endorsed two anti-bullying bills in Congress, the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act—both efforts to protect students and end bullying in schools. Duncansays that the president has often stated that “bullying is not a harmless right of passage or an inevitable part of growing up.”

Although children are the ones who normally face these issues, Duncan has high hopes that a partnership with the Ad Council, a non-profit that distributes public service announcements, will help teach kids to be more than just bystanders. With only one-third of all incidents being reported to adults, the partnership hopes to stress that people of all ages can be part of the solution by speaking up against bullying.

According to, bullying can occur both on and off school grounds. A member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America asked how out-of-school service providers can cooperate with schools to prevent bullying and harassment.

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Filed under: Arne Duncan • Behavior • Bullying