Education Chief Says "Bickering" Getting in the Way of Reform
At a two-day education summit wrapping up Wednesday in Denver, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said collaboration between teachers unions and school administrators is one of the biggest hurdles in front of the Obama Administration’s education reform efforts.
Thousands of educators from forty states are here for the summit that the Obama Administration is billing as a first-of-its-kind meeting between union leaders and administrators.
Secretary Duncan says getting the two sides to agree on touchy issues like performance-based pay for teachers and other reform measures will be tough, but not impossible.
"I draw a lot of inspiration from Egypt," Duncan said, on a panel Wednesday afternoon. "Three decades of oppression changed in three weeks., and so anyone who thinks that this can’t happen and can’t happen at a speed we haven’t seen before, isn’t looking at the reality of what’s going on around the world."
But some of the country’s largest school districts – including New York City – pulled out of the summit after clashes between teachers unions and administrators over layoffs.
The meeting also comes as cash-strapped states like Colorado are set to cut their education budgets. But Secretary Duncan says federal money will be available for schools that implement innovative reform measures. Last session, Colorado lawmakers passed related legislation, though the state was passed over in the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top contest.
Nevertheless, the Secretary, who organized the summit, says school districts that work collaboratively will be rewarded.
"Maybe the most important thing we can do is shine a spotlight on success, reward excellence, for those of you who are willing to step out there on the line and display courage, we’re going to do everything we can to support you, make sure you’re successful," Duncan said.