In a roundtable discussion on education governance Monday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan commended the state’s governmental leaders for putting tough governance issues on the table and dealing with them openly and honestly on behalf of children.
As an outsider looking in, Duncan said, he thought Washington has too many agencies dealing with education issues. “To have eight different agencies involved in education, I couldn’t think of a management guru who would draw up a structure like that from the ground up,” the Secretary said.
Superintendent Dorn, who has frequently been at odds with the Governor over her education department proposal, said that for him, the biggest education issue facing the state today are budget cuts. “We’re looking at cutting days, cutting budgets and cutting kids’ educational opportunity,” Dorn said.
Another panelist, Rep. Marcie Maxwell of Renton, said, “I would like to know how an overhaul of education governance will help with the daunting task of preserving funding for our schools.”
Duncan said the level of federal help provided to states through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is not likely to happen again, but he said President Obama has proposed adding $2 billion for education in his proposed FY 2012 budget. Although obtaining funding at the proposed level will be difficult given the current budget challenges, “We have zero intention of reducing funding,” Duncan said.
Other remarks from the education Secretary:
· If each state were an independent country and were compared with other nations, the state with the highest performing educational system, Massachusetts, would rank 17th.
· A U.S. education system that calls for up to six hours of primary and secondary schooling per day in a 180-day school year is based on a 19th Century agrarian economy and isn’t competitive with educational systems in other nations.
· Schools in some parts of the country are taking advantage of the communication tools popular with young people today, such as using cell phones to make assignments and extend learning time for students.