DES MOINES - U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged Congress on Friday to act soon to increase education funding because cash-strapped states can’t wait until the fall to determine if they must lay off thousands of teachers.
Duncan made his remarks at a forum in Des Moines on innovation in education at Aviation High School, a small college prep school that focuses on science, technology and mathematics.
At the forum, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said she hopes fellow lawmakers spent their Fourth of July break hearing from parents and teachers, as she did. Murray said if they got the message about how urgent the school budget crisis is, they will return to Washington, D.C., with the drive to find more money for schools.
A proposal to send billions more to states has hit a number of roadblocks.
The U.S. House has proposed cutting money from Race to the Top and other Duncan initiatives in order to send $10 billion to the states to keep 140,000 teachers in the classroom, and about $5 billion to shore up the Pell Grant program, which helps students pay for college.
Murray and Duncan both said many different proposals to pay for the emergency dollars are on the table.
“He and I have to go back to Washington and make this work,” the senator said.
Several dozen teachers and others held signs and chanted outside the school to protest Race to the Top and demand changes in the upcoming overhaul of the No Child Left Behind act. Some people inside the auditorium also expressed skepticism about education reform.
“I’m very concerned. We have a lot of kids who don’t know how to engage with schools like this,” said Don Rivers, a Seattle man who works for an organization that monitors school improvement. Rivers is also a candidate for Congress in Washington’s 7th district.