During an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell at Tuesday’s Education Nation Summit, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reaffirmed his belief that “education is the best investment we can make.”
“I think if you think education is expensive, try ignorance,” Duncan said. “I never say we should invest in the status quo, we have to invest in a vision of reform. But when you see art and dance and drama being eliminated…when those opportunities don’t exist—we’re cutting off our nose to spite the face.”
The secretary of education made it clear his goal was to “increase public confidence in education.” He repeatedly stated that the country is fighting a battle and that battle is education.
“There’s a set of folks who look at education as an expense and something in tough economic times that we need to cut back on,” Duncan said.
By cutting various programs, Duncan believes “we’re hurting kids, we’re hurting our country, we’re hurting our economic competitiveness long term” and in turn losing the education battle.
“You have to have that full menu of options so that kids can figure out both during the school day and after school what’s going to keep them coming to school every day,” he said. “When we fail to make these investments as a country, I worry tremendously and that’s the battle right now in this country, that we’re fighting.”
Duncan talked about the plans the Education Department once had to fix it’s broken state – however, he blamed the dysfunction in Congress to cause them to take other action such as partnering with individual states. These partnerships have allowed the Education Department to fix problems they aren’t able to do so on a national level right now. He said the flexibility of these partnership has been going “extraordinarily well.”
Duncan also addressed the recent protests in Chicago after the city’s Board of Education is planning on closing 49 schools citing they are “underused.”
“There’s no educator I know that wakes up in the morning and wants to close schools,” he said. “When you close schools there’s no upside. Kids lose, communities lose, parents lose, teachers lose. There’s an economic reality if you live in Chicago. You have a budget shortfall and you have to make some tough calls.”