Duncan Talks College Affordability and Rural Ed in WI and IA

Secretaries Duncan and Vilsack at a town hall in Wisconsin

Secretaries Duncan and Vilsack held a town hall in Wisconsin to discuss rural education and the teaching profession. Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood.

Waterloo, Iowa – It’s not often that town hall meetings are interrupted by the gentle moo of a calf, but that’s exactly the interjection that two Cabinet secretaries and an audience interested in rural education experienced Wednesday at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Pioneer Farm.

The mooing didn’t seem to bother the hundreds of educators, FFA members and other students who had gathered to discuss the teaching profession and rural education with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Students and teachers posed thoughtful and challenging questions to the secretaries on stage.

“Our country’s economy can’t be strong if our rural economy isn’t strong,” Duncan said at the event. Both he and Vilsack talked about the importance of public-private partnerships and the fact that communities need to come together in order for America’s economy to continue to grow. Secretary Vilsack noted how important farming is to America, even for those who are far removed from America’s pastures. The U.S. “has an amazing ag story,” he said, explaining that we need to “talk differently in this country about agriculture.”

Duncan and Vilsack also announced a new interagency agreement that will advance agricultural education and promote postsecondary and career pathways, including teaching. Click here for more information and watch a video of the town hall.

College Affordability

The town hall at UW-Platteville was just one stop in a busy day for Secretary Duncan, who started the day discussing college affordability with seniors at East High School in Madison, Wis. Madison Metropolitan School District superintendent Dan Nerad started off the town hall by reminding us that in “the American dream of ensuring that these great young people accomplish more than our generation, postsecondary education must be affordable.”

Click here to read President Obama’s Blueprint for College Affordability.

Together for Tomorrow School Improvement Challenge

Later in the day, Duncan stopped in Dubuque, Iowa, and joined the Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, ED’s director for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, to hold a “Together for Tomorrow” town hall on the value of community partnerships in helping to propel school improvement.

During the event, Duncan announced the Together for Tomorrow School Improvement Challenge, which challenges schools, national service programs, higher education institutions, and community and faith-based organizations to work together to turn around low-performing schools. Click here for more information.

Click here for a our Storify Story of day one, and check back for updates on day two of Secretary Duncan’s trip.