U.S. Education Secretary: Future Hinges On Student Learning

U.S.  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Monday in an interview that a thread ran through the ongoing Chicago teacher strike and the legacy of the landmark Topeka v. Board of Education lawsuit decided long ago.

Without sustained investment in public schools and creation of broad, equitable opportunities for all students to learn, he said, the nation can’t expect to prosper.

"America’s future is directly linked to the quality of education that we provide our children, young people and adults," Duncan said. "Every child in this country, that's what they need and deserve."

Duncan was interviewed as he bounced along a Colorado highway on the "Education Drives America" back-to-school bus tour. He will cruise into Topeka for a noon Tuesday forum at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site.

His appearance is intended to point a spotlight on hope represented by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in 1954  to end legal segregation of public schools by declaring the idea of "separate but equal" in violation of the Constitution.

In Chicago, a judge declined Monday to order Chicago teachers to resume their duties, rebuffing Mayor Rahm Emanuel's effort to end the strike on grounds that the work stoppage was a "clear and present danger to public health and safety" by keeping students out of classrooms.

Duncan, who served as chief executive officer of Chicago public schools from 2001 to 2008, said he was optimistic a deal would be approved and students called back to class as early as Wednesday.

"No one feels good about kids not being in school," the secretary said.

He said well-being of Topeka children since the 1950s and success of the nation's children in decades ahead depended on improving instruction throughout the continuum — from early-childhood programs, to K-12 classes and to higher education.

State cuts in public school spending — the subject of a pending lawsuit in Kansas — are a detriment to the process of educating people to compete in a global economy, he said. The federal budget proposed by Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan would dramatically reduce aid to all levels of education, he said.

"I look at education as an investment and not an expense," Duncan said. "All of us have to step up to the plate."

THE TOPEKA CAPITAL-JOURNAL

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