Secretary Duncan on Stretching School Dollars

Rick Hess has nothing but praise for a recent speech by Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education. Read the whole post. I am very, very encouraged:


Straight up, this was a speech unlike any I’ve ever heard a Secretary deliver. Duncan said resources are limited, embraced the need to make tough choices, urged states and districts to contemplate boosting some class sizes and consolidating schools, and didn’t spend much time trying to throw bones to the status quo. He laid out the bleak revenue picture ahead and then waded into ways that states and districts can save bucks without taking stupid steps like “reducing the number of days in the school year, slashing instructional time spent on task, eliminating the arts and foreign languages, abandoning promising reforms, and laying off talented, young teachers.”

The Secretary also finally struck a useful note regarding the stimulus and Edujobs–one that, whatever one thinks of these bills, many of us have been urging him to say for quite a while. Duncan said that the bailouts, while he thought them necessary, were a finished chapter, and that states and districts now need to focus on getting their houses in order. In other words, states shouldn’t count on coming back to the D.C. bailout drawer. A little late for him to say this, to my mind, but better late than never.

As I read Rick’s post, I couldn’t help but think that Secretary Duncan has been paying careful attention to the arguments that Rick has been making over the past two years. This is the best news I’ve heard out of the White House since, well, since as far back as I can remember. 

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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