U.S. Ed Chief watching Wake School Board runoff 'very, very closely'

Posted October 25, 2011

At a town hall meeting at Wake Tech's Public Safety Campus today, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the results of the runoff election that will decide control over the Wake County School Board next month is “something I’m watching very, very closely.”

Duncan said he doesn’t know the details of the Hill/Losurdo race, but he's concerned the new choice plan could reduce diversity in Wake schools. “I think it’s so critically important that our nation’s young people be able to grow up around people that look different from them, grow up in a different community, and be comfortable and confident in that environment,” he said.

Duncan said diversity in school helps kids become successful later in life, when tolerance is more difficult to teach. “Far too few of those opportunities exist,” he added. “Our country’s actually becoming more segregated, not less.”

“I wasn’t thrilled with what happened here in Wake County. I was very public about that,” he said, referring to an op-ed he wrote about the system earlier this year. “I think with the recent school board elections, there may be an opportunity to move in a more positive direction.”

“Wake County was actually a national leader” in diversity efforts, he noted. “I would hate to see Wake County lose that mantle.”

Duncan stopped in Raleigh on a national tour to promote President Barack Obama's latest jobs proposal. The secretary told a standing-room-only crowd that the bill would provide $5 billion for infrastructure improvements and renovations at community colleges nationwide. North Carolina's share would be about $163 million.

Duncan, flanked by former Democratic Governor Jim Hunt and Wake Tech President Stephen Scott, said some of that money could help Wake Tech finish its new campus, making room for more classes. College officials said 5,000 students went unserved this fall. That’s actually down from 8,000 wait-listed in fall of 2010.

When asked why he’d come to Raleigh to talk about the proposal, Duncan said he thinks North Carolina’s community college system is one of the best in the country, and that Wake Tech’s cooperative training deals with industry should be a model. “This is what the rest of the country needs,” he said. “We need to take this to scale.”

“This is a community that’s doing everything right,” Duncan said. “This is the kind of place that we want to support.”

“We want to invest, we want to help you grow,” Duncan continued. “We want this country to get back on its feet economically, and to do that, families have to get back on their feet. Families get back on their feet by having access to great community colleges like Wake Tech.”

Overall, he said, Obama’s jobs proposal would funnel $60 billion into education. Half would go to infrastructure, and the other half to pay teachers. The US Senate shot down the proposal last week with opposition from Republicans and some Democrats, but the administration is now trying a piecemeal approach.

Duncan also commented on Monday’s school shooting in Cumberland County, which he called a “devastating tragedy.” 

Some parents in Cumberland County have said their kids were concerned about the violence Monday, and apparently knew more about the risk than school officials apparently did. US Ed Secretary Arne Duncan on Wake Schools, NCLB US Ed Secretary Arne Duncan on Wake Schools, NCLB

“There’s no easy answer here,” he responded. “I think to the point of listening to students who are troubled or struggling, having those honest conversations, not sort of putting our head in the sand, having students have the courage to speak up, have an adult they can come to – a teacher, a social worker,a counselor , a principal, their parents – and say we’re worried about something going on.”

Watch the Q&A video at right.


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  • donmar Nov 3, 2011

    Grandpeople - you are right - only racists assume that only black kids are on reduced lunch.
    The DC politicians need to worry about DC schools - STAY HOME!!

  • donmar Nov 3, 2011

    Time to abolish the Department of Education and use that money to actually help kids at need.

  • SpaceRokr Oct 26, 2011

    Duncan, get up to speed with your cohorts that level the playing field for the involved parents and leave the kids alone. Your Department is making things worse with de facto diversity dictates that, through busing, wastes kids' time, taxpayers money, and everyone's patience. How many layers of forced diversity do you think will change the hearts of people? Just survey the populations of Churches and ethnic gatherings. That's what having choice does. It allows folks free association. Supt. Tata has a great idea that helps people feel more comfortable about diversity. Because they were given a choice that integrates school selection for the desires of families with cost reductions, the stage of hard feelings driven by your Policies has been mitigated, which gives room for the appreciation of other cultures. If you want to watch something very, very closely, how about scrutinizing Tata's plan and use it for a National Model? The results of a school Board run-off may affect imple

  • seenbetterdaze Oct 26, 2011

    Washington DC spends the MOST MONEY per child on their public schools...and they are STILL among the worst in the Nation.
    Who needs advice from a DC Politician on how to fix what's wrong with our Local School Systems? The trouble began with LBJ and his Great Society programs. Liberalism tries to force their Ignorant Ideology down every one's throat..We used to have the best schools in the whole world, but they decided to "fix" what was NOT BROKEN and now look at the MESS they have created. nuff said.

  • Grandpeople Oct 26, 2011

    You have to be kidding me. Republicans are on the welfare rolls and the Democrates are tax paying hard working citizens. Where did these facts come from? You are the party that wants BIG government paying for everything and everybody. 99 weeks of unemployment. I have worked all my life. Took care of my family, retired in April and now have another job. So your point is???????

    And the uneducated right just HAVE to jump in with their ridiculous comments and positions. Don't ANY of you have a job? The welfare rolls are already filled to capacity with Republicants, we hard-working tax-paying Democrats are about tired of footing the bill so you right wing nut jobs can sit at home all day swilling your beer and stuffing your face with Cheetos paid for by the good patriotic tax-paying Democrats of this country!

  • Grandpeople Oct 26, 2011

    The new policy has NOTHING to do with racial diversity. It has to do with free and reduced lunches and I know for a fact that we have as many white kids on these programs as black kids. The less money we spend on busing, the more we can put back into schools. This money will help kids learn and allow them to be successful in life. It will also make sure there is money for breakfast and lunch. I am personally bringing in additional food for one student. I gave up a service I was having done to pay for the food. I teach, and I don't make much money but it was worth it to me to have him have additional snacks to keep him going. As a result, his grades are better and he is doing better in school. Top that Rev. Barber and Mr. Duncan.

  • Nancy Oct 26, 2011

    All the lackey's from DC are flooding the state, Geinther in Wilmington, Duncan here, Obama there.

    Campaigning hard.

  • Nancy Oct 26, 2011

    Amazing that washington is soooo involved in one particular race in one state.

    Partisan politics at it's worst.

  • yabo2k3 Oct 26, 2011

    He also needs to take a hard look at what REAL education is. The US is the laughing stock of education for all developed countries. Instead of educating, we simply lower test scores so stupid Johnny doesn't feel bad because his crack whore mom created the situation when she was 13.

    Politicians should take a hard look at Jobs' book about 12 month schools, 10 hours of school a day, and separating students into 2 groups very early on: those deemed for higher education and laborers. Two very distinct education paths to provide much needed trade skills and those that become engineers, programmers, business leaders, etc. Most other countries do this, but we don't. Why? Because we are too liberal and don't want to hurt little Johnny's feelings.

  • yabo2k3 Oct 26, 2011

    If politicians want to continue with this "diversity" argument, why do they not live in the poorest of the poor sections of town? Simple answer!!! They only care about diversity when it does not affect them. These people are living in lily white communities, kids going to lily white private schools.

    If anyone wants to throw diversity down my throat from an Ivory Tower, they should be forced to live with the dregs of society that they are whining about. Make their kids walk by drug dealers at every turn, gun violence at every hour of the day, gangs at every house.