U.S. Education secretary visits Bay Area

May 22, 2009 6:48:03 PM PDT
President Barack Obama's education secretary came to the Bay Area Friday and said California's public education system has "lost its way." There are new plans Secretary Arne Duncan has for fixing up the schools.

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Standing 6'5" tall, Secretary Arne Duncan seemed like a giant to some of the San Francisco elementary school kids. The new education secretary was in town to listen and learn about what's going on with public schools in California, as the state faces yet more budget cuts.

"There is a real important saying, never waste a good crisis and in a moment of crisis you have a chance to think about some things very differently. We want to bring unprecedented resources to this state, but the state has to push a very strong reform agenda in return," said Secretary Duncan.

Secretary Duncan promised several California superintendents and mayors the state would get $10 billion for education as part of the one-time stimulus plan. However, he warned schools and districts need to challenge the status quo and be more innovative.

"And again one of the benefits of a tough economy, if we have good scientists, good chemists being laid off, let's get them into our classroom," said Secretary Duncan.

Secretary Duncan is a supporter of public charter schools and merit pay for teachers and principals.

"I don't know why we are scared of rewarding excellence in education. That amazes me. We're not scared of that in any other profession," said Duncan.

But the teacher's union has always opposed that kind of incentive on an individual basis.

"It encourages people to the work just for the money and that has never been the guiding light in education," said Dennis Kelly with United Educators of San Francisco.

Secretary Duncan also favors longer school days and a longer school year. But it's not clear where the money to achieve that will come from. For example, here in California, the governor wants to cut the school year by five days to help balance the budget.

Congratulations Lyanne Melendez!
By the way, ABC7's Lyanne Melendez was named on Friday as the winner of a John Swett Award, given by the California Teachers Association for continuous coverage of education issues.

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