U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan feels “very, very badly” for the children in Texas, where Republican Gov. Rick Perry has pushed through policies that have raised class sizes and cut funding, according to an interview Duncan gave on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt” airing Aug. 19 and Aug. 20.
It’s interesting that this early Democratic attack comes from Duncan, who usually tries to stay away from the political fray (his usual M.O. is to say he’d rather stick to conversations about policies that are what’s best for kids). However, at the same time, Duncan isn’t shy about calling out states that aren’t doing what he would like them to do. (Think back to California’s student-teacher firewall, or New York’s last-in first-out layoff policy. More recently, he told Iowa it needed to get its act together and end a period of education stagnation.)
According to Bloomberg, Duncan offered this critique of education in Texas since Perry became governor in 2000: “Far too few of their high school graduates are actually prepared to go on to college. I feel very, very badly for the children there. You have seen massive increases in class size. You’ve seen cutbacks in funding. It doesn’t serve the children well. It doesn’t serve the state well. It doesn’t serve the state’s economy well. And ultimately it hurts the country.”
Of course, Duncan could say this about a lot of states, as all have been battered by a lengthy recession that’s forced cuts in K-12 education. And in many other states, far too few students are prepared to go to college. But in those other states, you don’t have a strong presidential contender as a sitting governor, either.