ABC News’ Arlette Saenz reports:
In a conference call today, Secretary Arne Duncan stressed the need for governors to enhance productivity and flexibility in education despite facing a severe budget crisis.
“In these difficult financial times, meeting the challenge of improving education is even tougher, and many school districts are facing layoffs, reductions in state funding and massive budget deficits,” Duncan said. “There is a right way and wrong way to cut spending, and the most important guiding principle I can offer is to minimize the negative impact on students.”
At the request of the states’ governors, the Department of Education released two documents today to assist governors in making the best decisions about education while confronted by demanding budget cuts. The documents provide guidance for states to flexibly invest federal funds and ensure those funds are implemented in a way that foster productivity for students.
“America’s governors are facing tougher financial challenges than any time in recent history, and we call this a ‘new normal’, but we can never allow the new normal to take us backwards. We have to do more with less. We have to have to put needs of children above everyone else.”
Duncan addressed pending teacher layoffs across the country and urged states and school districts to not simply rely on seniority when determining layoff decisions.
“We’re challenging states and districts to use teacher effectiveness in the classroom as a factor in teacher layoffs. Districts should not let go of effective young teachers because it’s the easiest path and they should not let go of effective higher paid veterans just to save money.”
He called collective bargaining a “tool for reform and a tool to drive student achievement.”
“What I can’t support is when those collective bargaining rights are stripped.”
Duncan said he spoke with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker last week, and the governor called for teachers to increase their pension and healthcare benefits contributions.
Duncan touched on the message he and Bill Gates delivered to the National Governor’s Association meeting last week where they emphasized the need for financial and educational productivity.
“We have to focus on not just spent but on return on spent, and we have to make sure every single scarce dollar we spend is doing the maximum amount to help children get the education they need and deserve.”
“We have to educate our way to a better economy and in these tough budget times, which aren’t going to be just this upcoming year, it might be for a year, or two or three years, we can’t sort of sit back and accept the status quo because our children need an education now.”