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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soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Barbra & Jack Donachy

    Where we disagree is over the word "simple." Mary, to bring about the transformation you are describing, we would need to have an enlightened principal in every building working for an enlightened superintendent in every district, and these two parties would have to working with an enlightened curriculum coordinator. But that's only the start. We would also need a fundamental change in the way most teacher colleges operate, and in the way state and federal governments view standardized testing and academic "levels." It would also require parents who instill the joy of reading in their children, school boards that embrace the vision you've described and teachers en masse adopting this new paradigm. Here in America, we are full up to our eye balls of "simple" solutions. And yes, people can and do write books with "simple" fixes for our public schools. It's not helping.

    September 3, 2012 at 12:51 am |
  2. Barbra & Jack Donachy

    Mr. Duncan is correct on all counts, and here's a point of clarification on a matter he didn't directly address. The reason we spend more on education than most other countries is because this is America, where wages in general are high. If we offered teachers the wages they earn in, say, Italy, we would have a shortage of teachers across the board. We already have a shortage of math and science teachers, and the wages we pay administrators are not adequate to supply many of our schools with quality principals and superintendents.

    September 2, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  3. Mary Leonhardt

    I agree that schools need more resources, but a major change that schools can make that is inexpensive and devastatingly effective is simple: make turning kids into avid readers an absolute priority, in both elementary and secondary schools. Avid readers read better, write better, concentrate better, and do better in all of their subjects, across the board. Bot the curriculum and culture of schools in our country work against children developing a lifelong love of reading, and until that changes, all efforts at school reform will just nibble around the edges of the problem.

    September 2, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • Barbra & Jack Donachy

      Simple? Give us a break, Mary. If what you suggest were "simple," we'd be doing it. The issues involved in public education are very complex. Suggesting that we "simply" have kids read better is like the track coach telling his runners to "simply" run faster. Good grief...

      September 2, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
      • Mary Leonhardt

        I've been a high school English teacher for 35 years, in public, private, and parochial schools across the country. Plus I've written books about literacy, and been invited to speak in many schools and many parent groups. I know it sounds unbelievable, but the reality is that English and language arts and reading curricula most often work against children developing a love and habit of reading. We assign a whole class to read the same book and, believe me, you're lucky if even a handful of the kids like the book and actually read it. Then we assign study questions and vocabulary exercises and all kinds of other things to make the experience as unpleasant as possible. Check out bookstores and libraries. How many teenagers do you see browsing the aisles, looking for books to read? It's very possible to develop kids as avid readers–I've done it for years in my classes–but you can't do it unless you go against the culture and curricula of the school.

        My experience is that avid readers are fundamentally different as students. A class full of avid readers is a dream class, since you can do almost anything with them. A class of kids who hate reading and never willingly open a book is almost unteachable.

        September 2, 2012 at 11:54 pm |