Investing in Reform and Results: Secretary Duncan's Remarks at the Ed Stakeholders Meeting

Archived Information

Investing in Reform and Results: Secretary Duncan's Remarks at the Ed Stakeholders Meeting

February 14, 2011

I just returned from Baltimore with President Obama. It is fitting that he released his 2012 budget at a school because he is absolutely committed to education. This is a responsible budget that invests in education reforms that will deliver results. At a time when other agencies' budgets are being frozen or cut, the President is proposing a $2 billion increase for education that is focused on smart, targeted increases to advance reform.

The President is making an investment in a cradle-to-career strategy to accelerate student achievement. His budget will promote reform, reward success, and support innovation at the state and local level. But the President is making some tough choices in education and elsewhere.

We are cutting where we can to invest where we must. These are lean times for everyone, but we can't delay investment that will secure our future.

These investments in education are divided into five significant priorities.

First, there's $350 million for the Early Learning Challenge Fund. Research tells us that high-quality early learning is one of the best investments we can make. It prepares children for success in school, puts them on track to graduate high school and go on to college. This new competitive fund will support statewide models of high-quality early learning systems.

On the early learning agenda, my team will continue to work with our partners at the Health and Human Services Department, where the President has proposed targeted increases of $866 million for Head Start and $1.3 billion for quality child care.

Second, the President is signaling his support for sustaining and expanding important reforms. He's proposed $900 million for Race to the Top. Through the first two rounds of Race to the Top, we've already seen how competition and rewards provide powerful incentives for bold reforms. Forty-six states have created bold comprehensive reform plans that have buy-in from governors, legislators, local educators, union leaders, business leaders and parents. With the $900 million in this budget, we will run a competition that will fund districts of all sizes – with a separate carve-out for rural areas.

This budget also will provide for other key efforts to drive innovation in education, including $300 million for the Investing in Innovation program and $150 million for the Promise Neighborhoods program.

Our third priority is teachers. The President believes that every classroom should have a great teacher. The budget includes $975 million in reforms to recruit, prepare, reward and retain great teachers. It also will create the Presidential Teaching Fellows to award $10,000 scholarships for the best students who attend our best colleges of education. We also will support alternative pathways into teaching and will provide $80 million to help meet the President's goal of recruiting 100,000 new math and science teachers over the next 10 years.

Our final investment in teachers is the $500 million for the Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund, which will transform the teaching profession with new evaluation, professional development, and compensation systems that drive student achievement.

Our fourth priority is college completion. We project that a record 9 million students will use Pell Grants to pay for part or all of their college education. That's a 50 percent increase since the President took office. We'll continue that investment by maintaining the maximum grant at $5,550. For many students, Pell Grants are an economic lifeline – they are the difference between dropping out and graduating.

But in the knowledge economy, it's not good enough to start college. It's imperative that students complete their degrees. This can't just be about access. It has to be about attainment. Today, a third of students who enter college drop out and never earn a degree, and only half finish after six years. Through the $123 million "First in the World" competition, we'll provide venture capital to create innovative approaches to improve college completion and promote efficiency in higher education. There will be an additional $1.25 billion over the next five years for states to reward institutions that are leading the way in college completion.

Finally, this budget is maintaining the federal government's commitment to students most at risk. This is critically important to the President and me. It provides a $200 million increase for special education and a $50 million increase to support infants and toddlers with disabilities. It creates a $300 million program to recognize and reward high-poverty districts and schools where disadvantaged students are making the most progress, and maintains funding for English learners, migrant students, homeless, and rural children. We have to do a better job of recognizing places that are closing achievement gaps, reward them, and learn from them. Under this budget, 84 percent of pre-K-12 funds will be for formula programs.

Early learning, school reform, great teachers, college completion and helping students at risk -- these significant investments will sustain the momentum for innovation and reform in education.

But I'm not going sugarcoat this message. To make these investments, we have to find efficiencies.

This budget renews our proposal to consolidate a patchwork of 38 programs with a narrow focus into 11 larger programs that will have enough funds to make a significant impact. These new flexible programs will address critical issues in education – such as promoting a well-rounded curriculum and recruiting and retaining effective teachers. I look forward to working with members of Congress to make these changes as we reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We have bipartisan support for changes that will create a fair, flexible and focused law.

We have made other tough choices as well. In 2012, the historic demand for Pell Grants has created a shortfall that we project will be $20 billion. We can't let this gap go unaddressed. To help cover it, we are proposing to stop paying interest subsidies for graduate students' federal student loans. Research shows that these subsidies aren't targeted on the neediest students and they aren't our most productive use of funds. We believe that it's more important to keep the maximum Pell Grant at $5,550. We also will eliminate a provision that allows some students to receive two Pell grants in a single year.

We also have proposed a $265 million cut in state grants for career and technical education programs. While we know that high-quality career and technical education strategies have the potential to prepare students for jobs in the knowledge economy, many career and technical programs haven't lived up to their promise of preparing students for careers and college.

With the $1 billion available in the program, we will support reforms that provide rigorous pathways to postsecondary and career success. Career education is vitally important to America's future but we want to strengthen our programs so we're making the best investment for our students.

While these are tough, ever painful, choices, we have to stretch every dollar as far as possible and do more with less. But make no mistake, this budget is more about investment than cuts. President Obama has said that to win the future, we have to win the education race. With this budget, he's providing the resources we need to educate our way to a better economy.

As we strive to hit the President's goal of again leading the world in college graduates by the year 2020, we must continue to work together with the same energy, passion, and urgency that has defined our efforts in the past. I know that we will.