Sec. of Education Arne Duncan Testifies

A few highlights from Duncan’s testimony on May 20th before the House Labor and Education Committee:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act made available almost $100 billion for education. That money will help prevent layoffs, fill holes in state and local budgets, and provide financial aid to college students. The money is needed to help our economy in the short term, but reforms efforts driven by these funds will be the key to our long-term economic success.

In addition to helping states solve their budget problems, the
stabilization fund lays out a path to reform. To receive their money, states must make four commitments that are essential to reforming our K-12 schools. They will improve the effectiveness of teachers and make sure the best teachers are in the schools that need them the most. They will promise to improve the quality of their academic standards so that they lead students down a path that prepares them for college and the workforce and global competitiveness. These standards need to be aligned with strong assessments. In addition, states must work to ensure that these assessments accurately measure the achievement of English language learners and students with disabilities.

States must build data systems that can track student performance from one year to the next, from one school to another, so that those students and their parents know when they are making progress and when they need extra attention. This information must also be put in the hands of educators so they can use it to improve instruction.

We also continue our focus on promoting the teaching profession. With $517 million in our fiscal year 2010 budget, we will continue and expand our support for local efforts under the Teacher Incentive Fund to develop comprehensive strategies for recruiting, preparing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers.

For more than 40 years, the federal government has played a leading role in helping students pay for college. Continuing this vital role, the total amount of aid for students has increased by $32 billion since President Obama has taken office. By subsidizing loans and by providing work-study programs and, most importantly, giving Pell Grants to low-income students, the federal government is fulfilling the dreams of students who want to go to college but might not be able to pay for it.

Many of you have heard me say that I believe education is the civil rights issue of our time. I truly believe every child is entitled to a high-quality education. I will work closely with the Office of Civil Rights to make sure that we properly review compliance in all programs and policymaking.

This all sounds well and good, but backing up what Duncan says with action is what we’ll all be watching out for.