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MSNBC Morning Joe Interview with Arne

Amazing time for teachers, too, Arne.

Duncan has ratcheted up the old Chinese curse May you live in interesting times. He's put teachers and children across the country into amazing times.

Business as Usual in the Media: When you haven't a clue about what the issues are and operate entirely on sound bites, just tell the guest you love him and that he's doing a terrific job.

MSNBC "Morning with Joe:"

MR. SCARBOROUGH: We're joined now from the White House with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Arne, we've got a couple op-eds this weekend talking about -- David Brooks talking about the great things that you guys are doing at the White House. David Broder wrote an op-ed saying we've got to get more money because we don't want teachers to be fired.

These are fascinating times for you. Recently (we've had ?) oil spill, oil spill. But as Broder said this weekend, the much bigger, long-term challenge obviously comes from education.

How do you do what you need to do with dwindling economic resources?

SEC. DUNCAN: Well, this is an extraordinary time, as you know. And the amount of reform we're seeing around the country in the past 18 months is just amazing.

And thanks to the president's leadership, the Congress's support, we have 48 states working to raise standards. You had 47 states apply through Race to the Top; you've seen 30 states remove restrictions to innovative schools, to really drive reform.

And so this is a time where crisis meets opportunity, and that nexus, we think, gives us a chance to change reform in this country going forward for decades.

And are there tough economic times? Absolutely. But education is an investment we have to make. We have to educate our way to a better economy. We can't just invest in the status quo. As you know, we have to invest in reform.

But we have a chance as a country to go to an entirely different level. So it's just an amazing time to be working on education.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Okay. We were critical about elements of the stimulus package the last hour, and yet the one part that I think most people have been very positive on is the fact that a lot of that money went to keep teachers in classrooms.

Are you going to recommend another -- or fight for another stimulus package? I guess, what is it, 32 (billion dollars), $33 billion, to keep those teachers in the classroom?

SEC. DUNCAN: Yeah, $23 billion. And what I'm very, very concerned about is class size going from 25 to 40. We're very worried about after-school programs being eliminated, extracurriculars, summer school.

I do not need another study on the importance of summer school. We know disadvantaged children get to a certain point in June and they come back in the fall, in September, and they're further behind than when they left.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: How important is it for you to get that money?

SEC. DUNCAN: It is hugely important. Again, we have to get so much better as a country, educationally. We can't take a step backwards now.

We have to reduce dropout rates, we have to increase graduation rates, we have to make sure of our high school graduates are college- and career-ready. We can't afford to take a huge hit to education. We have to keep getting better.

So it is very, very important that Congress act, and act with a sense of urgency on this.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Arne, Mr. Secretary, I've always been surprised by how bluntly you've spoken about things.

And do you remember we had the secretary on a couple of weeks ago, and he wasn't afraid to go after New York State, Willie? You remember that?

MR. GEIST: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: New York State listened. Did you see that?

Are you pleased that New York State passed a bill? And I think even our good friend Senator Perkins was involved in that.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: Aw, he's come around!

MR. SCARBOROUGH: He's come around, Mr. Secretary, and we thank you.

SEC. DUNCAN: I'm very, very pleased. (Laughter.)

I was there a couple of weeks ago, and I think New York State has always been a leader, and we want them to continue to lead. And I think they're taking steps in the right direction, so I'm encouraged with that progress.

And we have to put politics and ideology to the side. We have to do the right thing by children in this country, and New York and other states are trying to do that.

MR. GEIST: Secretary Duncan, it's Willie Geist.

As you know, you work so hard on this, sometimes it's the youngest, best, and most energetic teachers that are laid off at a time like this because of tenure and unions and other things.

What do you say to a 25-year-old teacher who's dying to get into a school, dying to teach, but has learned probably in the last couple of weeks or will learn in the next couple of weeks that his or her job will not be there in the fall?

SEC. DUNCAN: Well, that's why we're fighting so hard. We still have a chance to save those great young teachers' jobs, and veteran teachers as well.

And if Congress passes this $23 billion emergency package, those teachers will keep teaching.

As we move forward in this country, we actually have a baby boomer generation moving towards retirement. We're going to need as many as a million new teachers in our country over the next four, five, six, seven years.

And so it's actually, despite the difficult times today, it's a great time for that next generation of talent, the hardest working, the most committed, to come into education.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: All right. Secretary Duncan, we think that you're great, actually. And thanks very much for coming on the show.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Doing a great job.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: We love what you're doing.

SEC. DUNCAN: Thanks very much, guys. Have a great day now.


— Morning with Joe crew interview Arne Duncan




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