Education Secretary Arne Duncan will testify this before the House Education and Workforce Committee on his department’s budget. He spoke to The Hill’s comment editor, Emmanuel Touhey, about his priorities and his political future.
Q: “We can’t wait” has become a mantra with this administration. How did it get to this point as it relates to education?
Well, unfortunately, when you have a Congress that isn’t working well together you either just sort of stay on the sidelines and stop working or you just keep trying to get things done. And No Child Left Behind has been broken for a long time, and we desperately wanted Congress to fix it and to fix it in a bipartisan way … but that didn’t happen, so we had the flexibility to go out and partner directly with states. When we were thinking about this I called 45, 46 governors from across the political spectrum. Every single one said go forward, every single one said “thank goodness someone in Washington is paying attention,” and we’ve provided relief flexibility to 11 states already. We have 27 who we’re reviewing this week.
We absolutely have the authority, the previous administration used the same authority, so there’s nothing new here. I’ve said repeatedly this was Plan B, and when and if Congress gets their act together and wants to work and fix the No Child Left Behind law for the entire country, then we’ll back off. But until that point, again, we feel a real sense of urgency to partner with hard-working folks across the country who are trying to raise graduation rates and reduce drop-out rates and make sure more students are college- and career-ready, and we feel very fortunate to be a good partner to them.