ARLINGTON, Va. - U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today made his first visit to a public high school since assuming office and used the occasion to urge swift passage of the stimulus legislation currently being considered by Congress, praising the bill's "historic level of one-time education funding that will not only save or create jobs but also will lay the groundwork for a generation of education reform and progress."
"There is no more immediate way to stimulate the economy--short-term and long-term--than to keep teachers teaching and to keep students learning," Duncan said. "As the bill moves to conference, we must get every dollar possible into America's classrooms."
He made his remarks during a visit to Arlington Public Schools' Wakefield High School, accompanied by U.S. Congressman James Moran, Arlington Superintendent Robert G. Smith, and a number of national and local education and civic leaders. Duncan noted that the Wakefield High building, first constructed in 1953, is slated to undergo renovations. He discussed the kinds of school construction and renovations projects that would be made possible by the stimulus package.
Duncan said that funds in the stimulus bill also would provide for a needed increase in Pell grants for college students, as well as an expanded tuition tax credit to make higher education more affordable for any students willing to give back to their communities. There also would be funds to help stabilize state education budgets, and "without that state money," Duncan said, "hundreds of thousands of teachers could be collecting unemployment instead of teaching in classrooms."
During his tour of the facility, Duncan visited with Advanced Placement (AP) students and faculty and praised the school's academic achievements and rigorous curriculum. Wakefield, which has a nearly 85 percent minority enrollment, with more than 40 percent of its students on free- and reduced-price lunches, was a 2006 recipient of one of three National College Board Inspiration Awards, given in recognition and support of the high school's commitment to challenge all students to take advanced and AP classes.
Duncan also talked about "Race to the Top" funds in the stimulus package that would help spur reform on a national scale by driving schools to adopt college and career-ready, internationally benchmarked standards; putting in place state-of-the-art data collection systems, assessments and curricula to meet these higher standards; and encouraging states to recruit, train, mentor and support a new generation of teachers who can better prepare students for college and the competitive workforce.
"The time has come for America to raise its expectations," Duncan said. "The leadership of the President and Congress, the proven strategies that are ready to go to scale and the money in the stimulus package can lift American education to an entirely new level and help provide the education every child deserves."