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National Press Club: Education Secretary Duncan Speaks About Education Reform, Part 2

NOTE: Duncan's speech is in Part 1. This is the Q & A.

MODERATOR: All right. We've got piles of questions that came in here.

Can your relatively small, $5 billion Race to the Top Fund actually leverage all the innovations you want out of the other $95 billion in the stimulus, and how?

DUNCAN: The Race to the Top opportunity is, like so many things here, absolutely historic. And I think Secretary Page had about $17 million of discretionary money. We have $5 billion. Think about that.

But, let me be clear: Money alone is not -- does not begin to be the answer. And what we're going to do, we're working on the RFP, the request for proposals. It will be out in the next couple months. We're going to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into states and into districts that are willing to challenge the status quo and push all of these reforms.

And, let me be clear: This is not going to be you can pick one or two, or two out of four, we want this suite (ph). High expectations. Thinking very differently about the talent. Raising the bar. Tracking data. Turning around struggling schools.

We want to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in states that are going to lead the country in what we're calling this Race to the Top. And we're going to encourage states that aren't quite there yet to think about what it would take for them to enter this.

And so there are going to be big winners, and there are going to be big losers. But we need a set of states (ph) to let the country know what is possible. And this money -- so it's not about the money. It's about the reform this money is going to drive. And it is, again, an unprecedented opportunity for states to step up and lead the country where we need to go.

MODERATOR: Isn't it sort of backward, though, offering $5 billion divided among 50 states as a reward for spending $95 billion wisely?

DUNCAN: I don't think it backward. It was so important to get the stimulus money out, because we had to do two things: We desperately had to save and create jobs. And there was a University of Washington study that talked about as many as 600,000 teachers' jobs being lost.

And what the stimulus dollars did was basically stave off what would have been an education catastrophe. We would have lost a generation of children. So it was a massive investment, but it was absolutely critical. And we had to do it. We had to do it quickly.

We can't afford to go backward. We have to go forward. And so, class size would have gone from 25 to 40. If we would have laid off social workers and counselors and librarians, that would have been horrible for our children here and around the country. So we had to put that out there.

But the stimulus dollars were for two things. It was to save and create jobs, and it was to push a very strong reform agenda. And it's interesting, people -- some people say in times of crisis we can't -- you can't innovate, you can't be creative.

And Rahm Emanuel, the president's chief of staff, has this fantastic line that talks about never waste a good crisis. We have a real crisis here in our country, educationally and economically.

And times of crisis force you to think creatively, force you to be innovative. And this is a real test of leadership at every level -- governors and state superintendents and local district leaders.

Some folks will be -- will be paralyzed by the crisis. They won't be able to think creatively. They won't be able to think more broadly. But some folks are going to use this crisis and are using this crisis to think very, very differently, to invest differently.

And those are the districts, those are the states where we want to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to show the country what's possible.

So I actually think sequentially, this is absolutely the right way to do it.

MODERATOR: There are still many states that have not applied for stimulus funds. Are you concerned? And what happens if they don't apply?

DUNCAN: We didn't anticipate this one. So we're learning every day. And I want to thank our staff. Our staff has done an unbelievable job. We promised we would turn around applications within 14 days. Our staff has been turning around in six days.

Our career staff is working nights, weekends, holidays. And we've put out about $21 billion to 18 states.

I'm not concerned yet, but we put in a July deadline. And so we want those applications to come in. And we want states to be thoughtful on how they're doing it, but we do want to get this first set of money out.

States are obviously planning now and districts are planning now for next fall. And so we want them to know the money is there.

And our staff, again, I couldn't be more proud and pleased with how hard they're working and being responsive. And there are a number of applications that are starting to roll in, as we speak.

MODERATOR: One of the reporters in the audience asks, how do you plan to follow through on the idea that stimulus money for the states be tied to whether or not they lift their caps on the number of charter schools?

DUNCAN: Well, what I've said repeatedly is that, you know, charter schools aren't in and of themselves the answer, but they're part of the answer. And let me be clear: I'm not for more charters. I'm for more good charters. And what I'm actually for is for more good schools.

And it's interesting. Charters are what -- charter schools are sort of political speak or adult speak. Children don't talk about charters versus noncharters, they talk about good schools versus bad schools.

And let me tell you where I think charters can be very effective. First of all, you have to have a very high bar. This is not let a thousand flowers bloom. And some states, they'll just let anyone who wanted to open a charter open. You can't do that. This is a sacred work, and you've got to make sure that you're picking the best of the best to give them an opportunity to educate children.

Secondly, once you set that high bar, you have to do two things. You have to give these charters real autonomy. These are by definition education innovators. They're entrepreneurs. They have to be freed from the bureaucracy. And if you tie them too closely, they won't play.

Second, with that real autonomy, you have to have couple that with real accountability. You have to have five-year performance contracts. One without the other doesn't work. And so, if you just have autonomy without -- without accountability, you'll get mediocrity. If all you have is accountability and no autonomy, none of these education entrepreneurs would be interested. But that combination is very, very powerful.

What's amazing to me about charter caps is if charters are working, of those conditions are met, we don't cap each year the number of students who can graduate from high school. We don't draw a line, "We're only going to let 72 percent of students graduate from high school." We don't cap each year the number of students who can take A.P. classes. We're always trying to do more of those things.

So if something is working, why would we put an artificial cap on it? Why would we do that?

And, yes, to be clear, while we're still developing the Race to the Top RFP, the request for proposals, one of the very clear questions we're going to be asking states is how are they thinking about innovation, how are they thinking about charters.
DUNCAN: And if folks are not flexible, if they're not innovative, if they're not willing to challenge the status quo, that's going to put them at a severe competitive disadvantage to receive these $5 billion in Race to the Top money.

MODERATOR: What assurances do you have so far that states will take your demands seriously? And are you going to beef up the I.G.'s office to keep track of all that spending?

DUNCAN: I think those are two different questions.

In terms of keeping track of the spending, we have a team that's absolutely in place. And we're pushing unprecedented transparency around this.

But what I really expect is it shouldnât just be the Department of Education or our I.G.âs office. I expect you as reporters to our watchdogs. I expect parents and students to be our watchdogs.

And we want to spend every single one of these dollars wisely. These are taxpayersâ dollars. This is money that belongs to the public.

And so I really believe in this idea of mutual responsibility and accountability. And while weâre going to do everything we can to be transparent, we expect parents and community groups and local reporters and medias at the community level to really watch how these dollars are spent and help us make sure and hold education leaders accountable for spending that money wisely.


MODERATOR: The first question was, what assurances do you have so far that states will take your demands seriously?

DUNCAN: Well, we tried to do a couple things, and weâve thought a lot about this. Weâre putting out in this first round of stimulus funding tens of billions of dollars. But as you may have noticed, different than other departments, we withheld tens of billions of dollars in stimulus funding for round two.

And weâre going to watch states very closely. And where states are acting in bad faith or playing shell games or doing the wrong thing, we have the chance to withhold tens of billions of dollars. So we have a very, very strong stick there. On top of that, we have unprecedented carrots. I talked about the $5 billion Race to the Top Fund, $5 billion in school improvement money, $517 million in Teacher Incentive Fund, money for charter schools, $250 million for data systems. We have north of $10 billion that we want to invest in states that are doing the right thing, states and districts.

And so itâs really -- you know, weâre going to watch how people behave and watch how theyâre spending money and watch their creativity and watch their innovation.

And folks that are doing the right thing have a chance at a time of desperate economic need to bring hundreds of millions of dollars into their state.

And folks that are doing the wrong thing, or, again, are paralyzed by the crisis or canât think creatively, those states, frankly, are going to lose.

And so this is a real test of leadership around the country.

MODERATOR: What will happen to state educational Recovery Act dollars that remain unapplied for after the July 1 deadline?

DUNCAN: I donât think thatâs going to be much of a problem. I think weâre going to get those applications.


MODERATOR: When will the Race to the Top application be released?

DUNCAN: Weâre still thinking that through. That would be in the next couple months. And what we want to do in that is to push a very, very strong reform agenda. We want this to be absolutely as clear and objective as possible. We want to be absolutely transparent.

And we just want to be -- you know, give folks a chance to demonstrate their commitment to reform, their commitment to leading the country where we need to go.

And, again, we want to invest unprecedented resources in those states, in those districts that want to be -- provide the leadership that out country desperately needs.

MODERATOR: Why did you backtrack on allowing federal stimulus funds for school modernization?

DUNCAN: I donât think we backtracked there. Money can absolutely be used to rehab and to fix schools that are in need of help. And thereâs so much you can do to make schools more energy efficient, to retrofit them, to make schools more accessible for early childhood programs, to make schools available for community programs.

And we want our schools open much longer hours, 10, 12, 13, 14 hours a day, and thereâs very significant capital money thatâs desperately needed to have schools think creatively about different uses for buildings.

MODERATOR: OK. We have reporters here from a bunch of different states, so they want you to talk about their states. So one reporter asks: What can states, specifically Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, California -- Iâll leave this up here for you -- Georgia, Washington, Texas and Florida expect to see happen from the billions of ARRA dollars being distributed this month?

DUNCAN: I canât remember that list of states. I would say for all states, I think itâs a common question. Weâre expecting two things. Weâre expecting to save and create teachersâ jobs, and the most important thing we can do in todayâs tough economy is to keep teachers teaching and to keep students learning, and again to stave off this educational catastrophe. As I said, we canât go backward.

And secondly, and this will really be up to those state leaders, to see who can step forward and push a very strong reform agenda -- whoâs going to do the right thing.

And it was interesting, I saw recently -- Iâm going to reach out to them later today -- we saw the Cincinnati school system is bringing students back a month early this summer, and time matters tremendously. And we talk about summer reading loss. And so, thatâs one example. There are many, many around the country.

You see folks starting to use stimulus dollars, Title I dollars, in very, very creative ways. And we all know about summer reading loss, a devastating issue where students get to a certain point in June and they come back to you in September and theyâre further behind than when they left you.

And so you have folks, again, locally in districts, in states that are starting to be very creative in the use of funds. And thatâs going to be very, very telling as we go forward on these more competitive dollars.

MODERATOR: Well, there you go. You hit Ohio. All right.


The stimulus is likely to have an uneven impact on statesâ K-12 spending. For some states, it will be a huge plus. For others, it will not even begin to make up for previous cuts to K-12 education.

What impact do you think that disparity will have on the stimulus reform goals?

DUNCAN: I think that it is true that you have 50 states. I donât think there is a state in the country thatâs not hurting. I think every state is hurting at this point economically. Itâs to varying degrees, some -- some more than others.

But, again, and I think -- I canât -- I repeat myself -- I canât emphasize this enough: In times of crisis, in times when you have to look very carefully at how youâre spending money, that is a time of huge opportunity.

And I would argue that some of those states that are the hardest hit may be the states that push the most reform, because they see this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change things.

And so, you know, how -- how much a state is hurting is going to vary by degrees. Thatâs not the issue. The issue is how much courage they have, how much ability to innovate, and how much of an opportunist they are who see this chance to do something very, very different that they have never been able to do before because you have this unique intersection of crisis and opportunity.

This is a huge test of leadership, and weâre going to see how this plays out.

MODERATOR: President Obama has stated, quote, âTo give our children a shot to thrive in a global information age economy, we will equip thousands of schools, community colleges and universities with 21st century classrooms, labs and libraries.â

What is the DOE providing school libraries to accomplish this goal?

DUNCAN: Theyâre talking about in the stimulus package. There are billions of dollars for capital infrastructure. And so whether, again, itâs -- itâs retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient so that over time you can spend more money on teachers, on textbooks, rather than on your gas bills and your heat bills and your electricity bills; whether itâs making schools accessible to become community centers; whether itâs opening them up for early childhood programs, thereâs a huge amount weâre doing.

On the library side -- and this is, again, part of where I think our schools have to be community centers -- every school around the country has a library. They all have classrooms. They all have gyms. They all have computer labs. Some have pools.

These are great, great facilities that donât belong to me, that donât belong to the local union. They donât belong to the superintendent. They belong to the community. And we want these facilities open 12, 13, 14 hours a day, six, seven days a week, 11, 12 months out of the year.

And we have phenomenal schools where the library is a community library, and where folks are coming in and doing GED classes and ESL classes and family literacy nights, and where we have parents coming to school not just for their childrenâs education, but for their own.

So thinking very, very differently about the use of time, not just lengthening the day, but lengthening the amount of time buildings are open, bringing the nonprofits, bringing the community groups, using the library in different ways is something weâre going to push very, very hard.

One of the places where our students are at a competitive disadvantage is in the amount of time theyâre going to school. And we want to really challenge the status quo there.

MODERATOR: Why did the F.Y. 2010 budget request $1.5 billion less than appropriated in fiscal year 2009 for the Title I basic grants? Do you intend to curtail or end the basic grants program? Why or why not?

DUNCAN: We did two things strategically. One, is in the stimulus package, as you know, there was north of $10 billion in new Title I money that came in, so unprecedented money for Title I, unprecedented money for IDEA, for children with special needs.

What we actually are doing is weâre beefing up significantly the Title I school improvement grants. We shifted resources there. And that was a strategic decision.

And the decision is, we want to focus resources on those schools that are at the bottom. And we want to have a laser-like focus on those schools that need dramatic change.

And then we want to put literally billions of dollars on the table to encourage states and districts to think very, very differently about what happens there. So this is really about a concentrated effort of a laser-like focus to challenge those schools at the bottom that we think need to be fundamentally turned around, and do it with a real sense of urgency. MODERATOR: Do you think college grants tied to high school performance, such as the Academic Competitiveness Grant, are an effective way to motivate low-income students to take more rigorous high school courses? How will eliminating this grant affect low- income high schoolers?

DUNCAN: What we actually want to do is we have unprecedented competitive resources that we want to put out, not just to states, but to nonprofits and to districts to think creatively about this. We have the $650 million innovation fund, Invest in What Works.

And Iâm a huge believer in getting high school students onto college -- onto college campuses, taking college credits. And where we had those kinds of partnerships, weâve strongly encouraged districts and, you know, community college and four-year institutions to apply. And we want to scale up those kinds of partnerships.

These are hugely important to me for a couple different reasons. One, again, at a time when families are struggling so much financially, to have a college credit or two in your back pocket when you graduate from high school, saves that family significant resources.

But to me this is about much more than money. When our children, particularly children who are first generation going to college, have a chance to go on a college campus or to take a path to college credit, whether itâs, you know, at a university or A.P. class, what they start to do is they start to believe in their heart that they really can be successful in college.

And I worry a lot about students who are smart, who are capable, who are committed, but because they donât have anyone in their family whoâs ever gone to college, that world is just a different world for them. They donât feel they belong there.

And so the more, in a concrete way, they can have that college experience in high school and say, âIâm capable. I can do this. This is my world. I can belong here,â that is much more important to me than the financial benefits.

DUNCAN: So where we have dual-enrollment programs or early involvement programs -- lots of different -- different names for it, (inaudible) we have successful (ph) programs, we again have tens of millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in those programs that are really helping many more of our high school students start to believe that the college world is for them.

MODERATOR: OK. What is your position on a potential national education voucher program?

DUNCAN: Iâve been very, very clear that I donât think vouchers work. Theyâre not the answer. Let me explain why.

Vouchers usually serve 1 to 2 percent of the children in a community. And I think we as the federal government, we as local governments, or we as school districts, we have to be more ambitious than that. Thatâs an absolutely worthy or noble goal. If a nonprofit or philanthropy wants to provide scholarship money to children, thatâs a great, great use of the resources.

But I donât want to save 1 or 2 percent of children and let 98, 99 percent drown. We have to be much more ambitious than that. We have to expect more.

And this is why I would argue rather than taking one of these struggling schools, these thousands (inaudible) -- rather than taking three kids out of there and putting them in a better school and feeling good and sleeping well at night, I want to turn that school around now and do that for those 400, 500, 800, 1,200 kids in that school and give every child in that school and that community something better, and do it with a real sense of urgency.

MODERATOR: Why do you think the Education Department ranks so low among the best and worst places to work in the federal government? And what are you going to do about it?

DUNCAN: Weâre going to fix that.


And Iâve talked a lot about being transparent with data, and youâve got to lead by example. So a survey came out that said, I think we were at 27th out of 30 departments. That was before we got -- got here. But weâre going to own it. Weâre going to own it. Weâre here now. And so the day after I got it, I put a letter out to every -- every employee. And we want to listen. We want to learn. And I will tell you, the career staff that Iâve worked with so far have been absolutely phenomenal. The amount of work that weâre getting out the door has been extraordinary. I mean, just the stimulus dollars -- the departmentâs never seen these kinds of resources, and itâs been so far executed impeccably well.

And so going forward, as I said, on test scores -- I have looked at absolute test scores, I look at gain. The same is going to be true for us. Weâre going to look at our own gain each year. And Iâll come back here a year from now. If we havenât improved, youâve got to hold me accountable for it.

But weâre recruiting the best and the brightest from around the country to come in and work. It is an extraordinary team weâre building. And for people who are in education, there has never been an opportunity like this. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

And I couldnât be more proud of the talent already in the department. I couldnât be more proud of the talent coming in. And Iâm very, very confident youâll see those numbers start to -- start to increase.

MODERATOR: Well, as you said, you were listening to employees. Youâre inviting them to talk to you. What are you hearing? What do they say that -- whatâs bugging -- bugging them? What donât they like?

DUNCAN: What you find is pretty interesting. Folks feel they havenât been supported. They havenât had opportunities to develop their skills. We have to do a lot about better training of managers, to do fair evaluations. We are trying to move away from a compliance- driven culture to a developmental-driven culture.

Itâs interesting. We want to build and model culture in our department that will reflect what we want to see happen in school systems.

DUNCAN: And so this is all about developing human potential, taking people wherever they are and helping them go to the next level.

And we all have strengths and we all have weaknesses. And I have to walk the walk, not talk the talk. There are areas where I have to push myself to get better every day and be very self-critical and look in the mirror and say, âWhat can I do to improve?â

But as we start to do a better job of listening to our employees, as we do a better job of empowering them, we do a better job of helping them develop their skills and improve on their weaknesses, I think that will fundamentally change the culture within the Department of Education.

MODERATOR: Home schooling has nearly doubled since 1999. What does this say about our nationâs schools? And if this trend continues, how will it impact the country?

DUNCAN: Well, again, I just said, Iâm just very, very pragmatic. We need more good schools. Every parent -- every parent, doesnât matter race, class, neighborhood background, every parent wants whatâs right for their children.

And Iâm a big believer in choice and competition and having a variety of options. So if home schooling is a good option for a child or a family, God bless them. Thatâs, you know, thatâs a good opportunity for them.

We need to continue to dramatically improve our schools. And the real test of this -- and, you know, Iâm a big believer in looking at data and really tracking whatâs going on. But let me tell you, you could walk into a school and in two minutes figure out whatâs going on there, what type of culture it is.

And the real test for me is personal. I have a 7-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son. If I walk into a school and itâs good enough for my children, then I think thatâs a good school. If itâs not good enough for my children, then itâs a school that needs some work.

And in education, for far too long, we have produced, we have created schools that are good enough for somebody elseâs children. And so this has to be personal. This has to be whatâs right for us.

And if we had every school in this country was good enough for our own children, then I can retire and go to the Bahamas. Our job is done. But weâve got some work to do till we get there.

But thatâs what itâs about. Itâs about making every school a school of choice. Itâs about giving parents a range, a variety of very strong options and letting them figure out what that option might be. And if home schoolâs a good option for them, more power to them.

MODERATOR: What is your plan for Indian education -- for Native Americans?

DUNCAN: Well, Iâm so glad you brought that up. I spent Wednesday on a reservation outside of Billings, Montana. And itâs my first time being on an Indian reservation, and itâs a day Iâm never going to forget.

DUNCAN: And Iâve seen, you know, poverty all my life on the South Side of Chicago and the West Side. Iâve traveled throughout the country. Iâm learning a lot every day. But, you know, Wednesday is a day that Iâm -- Iâm never going to forget.

And the challenges are daunting. This is one reservation, but I think the numbers are more broad than this. The unemployment rate on that reservation is 70 percent. I couldnât -- I sort of canât get my head around that -- 70 percent.

You had dropout rates of, you know, 60, 65 percent.

At the high school I went to -- and this was not a scientific study -- but the teachers told me that over the past six years, they think theyâve had one child graduate from college -- one child in six years graduate from college.

So the challenges are enormous.

Having said that, I always spend a lot of time talking to children in the schools I visit. And the children I talked to could not have been smarter, more committed, passionate. And it was fascinating.

What were they asking for? They were asking to be challenged. They were asking for expectations to be raised. They had too many people telling them that they were never going to make it, they werenât good enough. And they were tired of adults telling them what they couldnât do.

Some of them have never been off the reservation. We talk about social isolation and exposure. And so we have to give children a chance to understand whatâs out there.

There was a lot of conversation around a lack of teacher housing, so itâs very hard to keep good teachers there. And I visited the reservation with Shaun Donovan , whoâs been a phenomenal partner, whoâs the new secretary of education (sic) at HUD. And we thought a lot about what we could do on the teacher housing front.

DUNCAN: But I couldnât sleep Wednesday night, and my mind was just churning of a million things I wanted to do to help -- to help these children.

And so, thereâs a lot of hard work ahead of us. But if we canât help those Native American children be successful over the next couple years, then I think I personally would have failed.

And so, thatâs an area where weâre going to spend a lot of time, weâre going to really think about doing something different. And the magnitude of the challenges was absolutely real to me. But these were smart, committed, passionate children who wanted to learn and wanted to do something. And we as adults have to find a much better way of meeting them more than halfway.

So this is an area where, again, Iâm learning. This is a new world for me. But for far too long we have not given these children what they need, and Iâm committed to fundamentally challenging that status quo.

MODERATOR: Your point about tracking students back to their individual teachers continues to support the public notion of the one- teacher-per-classroom from the 19th century in a 21st century world. What about the growing awareness that successful education relies on teams of teachers -- teams of educators -- and other supports, including counselors, technology?

How do you reconcile your policy support of incentives to individual teachers?

DUNCAN: Itâs a great question, but whoever asked -- asked the question doesnât really understand how I think about this. But let me take a minute to articulate it.

I do think that, where we can, we absolutely need to track students back to the individual teachers. I also understand thatâs the minority of teachers, that most -- most -- you know, 50 percent, 60 percent, 70 percent of teachers, you canât do that.

And Iâm a big believer in not just looking at what the individual teacher does, but what the entire school does, and at what every adult in the building is doing.

So we created a program that rewarded excellence back in Chicago. Again, this is one model, there are many models out there. We created a model that did two things. Where we could identify teachers and their students, we awarded those teachers on an individual basis.

DUNCAN: We also created incentives for not just every teacher in the building, but every adult in the building -- the principal, the custodians, the social workers, the lunchroom attendants -- because as we walk into any good school around the country, it is every adult in that building who is building a culture of high expectations.

And the lunchroom attendant is making sure those children are eating breakfast and lunch. And the security guard is making sure that the building is safe. And the custodian isnât just making the -- helping the building be immaculate, but is making sure the children are taking their backpacks home in the evening.

And so I think itâs very important to look at both -- to look at individual teacher contributions, but to also incent the entire team. And I come from an athletic background. The sense of team is very, very important to me.

And again, in high-performing schools, it is always not an individual effort. Itâs a collective effort. And the more we look at what those teams are doing, and the more we identify principals who are really building a culture of high expectations, the better weâre going to do.

So these are often false dichotomies, and we want people to, you know, challenge folks to be creative, to be innovative. And one of the areas that we have huge resources to invest going forward with the F.Y. â10 budget is the Teacher Incentive Fund -- $517 million. And we want to look about -- we want to look at those districts that are finding ways to do this.

The final point I want to make on this, it was so important, where so often these kind of incentive programs have broken down is where they pit teachers against each other. And if thereâs a limited pool of money and if only one teacher, one third-grade teacher can win, what happens? Teachers close their doors, and they donât share best practices, and you create perverse incentives.

You canât do that. Youâve got to create an incentive where a rising tide lifts all boats. And we are encouraging teachers to help each other and support each other and collaborate.

Thereâs a really interesting term that is very important to me. People talk a lot about de-privatizing education. We need to de- privatize education. We need to open our doors, open our classrooms.

And the more weâre encouraging teachers to talk and collaborate across grades, within grades, the more weâre encouraging principals to talk across schools, we have to open our doors and we have to create the right set of incentives to make sure we are de-privatizing education, opening it up, sharing best practices, helping each other improve.

MODERATOR: We are just about out of time. But before I ask the last question, we have a couple of little announcements.

The first is that on June 1, former Vice President Dick Cheney will address the National Press Club as a part of the Gerald R. Ford Foundationâs annual journalism award ceremony.

And on June 8th, David Simon, a former reporter at the Baltimore Sun, best known for producing the popular HBO drama âThe Wire,â will be speaking at the club.

And second, Iâd like to give Secretary Duncan our very special National Press Club coffee mug.


DUNCAN: Thank you so much.

MODERATOR: Youâre very welcome.

DUNCAN: Thanks for having me.


MODERATOR: Oh, weâre not letting you go yet, actually.

DUNCAN: Iâm not done yet?

MODERATOR: You got one more question.

DUNCAN: All right.

MODERATOR: So we donât let you out easy around here.

Who or what is the biggest roadblock to the kinds of changes youâre advocating?

DUNCAN: I think I answered that, and Iâm happy to answer it again.

We have huge resource challenges. We havenât solved them. We took an unprecedented step in the right direction.

We have more good ideas out there than weâve ever had before. And so this listening and learning tour is hugely important. And we have to scale up what works and invest in what works, and we have unprecedented discretionary dollars to do that.

So we have resources. We have ideas. We can invest those resources. What we have lacked is political courage. What we have lacked is the will to do the right thing by children. And that is what -- thatâs -- thatâs the -- weâre at a fork in the road as a country. And if we can summon that will, if we can summon the courage, weâre going to see the kinds of changes that wonât just happen for these children. Youâre going to see education change in our country for decades to come. And thatâs the kind of chance -- thatâs the kind of change weâre pushing for.

And Iâll just take one second on this. These kinds of opportunities are so special. And to have the chance to fundamentally change the quality of education for children around the country is something I feel so lucky to have.

But I feel a real sense of urgency. You hope for eight years, but youâre not guaranteed eight. You have to think in increments of four. And so weâre thinking about over the next four years how you change education not for now, but for the next 25, 30 years, how do you change education in this country forever.

And we have a chance to do that, that just simply hasnât existed before for far too long, and we want to work hard enough and be smart enough and challenge ourselves enough so that we can fundamentally break through.

But to do that, to get where we need to go, we have to have more courage.


— Arne Duncan
Congressional Quarterly, speech at National Press Club


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