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Education secretary visits Tamalpais High

June 25, 2010 9:55:31 PM PDT
The nation's secretary of education was in the Bay Area Friday with concerns about the number of teacher layoffs in California. About 22,000 teachers may not return to the classroom in September due to drastic state cuts. Secretary Arne Duncan is pushing Congress to save the day.

Duncan was at Tamalpais High in Mill Valley on Friday to talk about education reform, which includes implementing performance-based compensation for teachers. Teachers unions dislike that so much, a few of its members brought anti-Duncan posters but were asked by the organizers of the event to leave them outside. But inside, Duncan had to face them.

"As a teacher and a union member I feel a little attacked by the administration as far a union's accountability and such," a woman in attendance said to Duncan. "You know we have to be in a position where we feel comfortable if we are going to be part of the solution."

Duncan made it clear he is still pushing for teacher merit pay.

"What we all have to do is we all have to come together, we all have to move outside our comfort zone," he said. "It has got to be about shared and collective responsibility."

But Duncan came to push for the pending the $23 billion education and jobs bill, which if Congress passes, would save about 300,000 teaching positions in the nation. It is similar to last year's recovery bill which kept thousands of teachers employed during the recession.

However, states like California have yet to recover. So this bill would allow teachers to stay on the job for another year while state budgets recover.

"People ask what is the Plan B? I don't know what Plan B is when class size goes from 25 to 40. I don't know what the Plan B is quite honestly when extra-curriculars get eliminated and summer schools get eliminated and schools go to four-day weeks rather than five, and we need more time not less."

On that matter, the California Teachers Association agrees with Duncan.

"They bailed out the banks," Eric Heins with the California Teachers Association said. "It's time we need to bail out our education system and here in California, of course, we are really feeling it."

But Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, D-Santa Rosa, admits it will be an uphill battle.

"They believe that it goes against our deficit because there's more deficit, when in reality jobs create taxpaying citizens in the country," she said.

Still, Duncan is hopeful the emergency bill will make it through Congress by the summer.


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