Washington (CNN) - Education Secretary Arne Duncan says President Obama "absolutely supports" a congressional proposal for $23 billion in emergency education spending in order to stave off teacher layoffs and cancellation of summer classes.
Duncan told CNN Wednesday that the emergency spending request is needed to head off "an education catastrophe, " in which as many as 300-thousand teachers across the country could be laid off.
Duncan also said that without the extra spending, some school districts will be forced to eliminate summer school and after-school programs.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. George Miller, D-California, are behind the bid in the Senate and House to approve the extra spending.
Duncan has asked Congress to add the money to an emergency spending measure, being considered this week, that would fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Washington (CNN) - President Obama's point man for improving America's schools said Tuesday that boosting educational opportunities will help the struggling economy.
"We have to educate our way to a better economy," Education Secretary Arne Duncan says in an interview set to air on CNN's "John King, USA."
In a wide-ranging interview with CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, Duncan defended changes to the federal student loan program that the president signed into law at a Virginia community college.
Under provisions included in the health care "fixes" bill, private banks will no longer handle federally-backed student loans. Previously, borrowers got college loans from either banks or the federal government. In return for administering loans to students, private banks received federal subsidies to provide student loans.
Related: FAQ's about student loan reform
Republicans have criticized the change as another example of the Obama administration taking control of something historically done by the private sector. But Duncan told King that the changes to the loan program shift money from banks to helping students finance their educations.
Washington (CNN) - On the same day that President Obama signed legislation revamping the federal student loan system, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told CNN he is concerned about the education of some NCAA athletes.
"I was lucky enough to have a phenomenal college athletic experience," Duncan says in an interview set to air on John King, USA. "The vast majority of student athletes get that. I worry when athletes are simply used by their universities to produce revenue, to make money for them, nothing to show at the back end. I grew up with a lot of players who had very, very tough lives after the ball started bouncing for them. And that's why I'm going to continue to fight."
Programming note: Watch more of Duncan's interview on John King, USA beginning at 7 p.m. E.T.
Washington (CNN) - U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told reporters Monday that Tennessee and Delaware stood out in their applications for the Race to the Top funding competition because their proposals would reach all corners of their states.
"The two state winners were touching 100 percent of their students," Duncan said, adding that he considered that to be pretty remarkable.
Tennessee and Delaware were the only two states to receive funding Monday in the first round of the education funding competition, federal officials announced.
Delaware will receive $100 million under the program, while Tennessee will receive $500 million.
Duncan said in the announcement that one determining factor was that "both states have statewide buy-in for comprehensive plans to reform their schools. They have written new laws to support their policies. And they have demonstrated the courage, capacity, and commitment to turn their ideas into practices that can improve outcomes for students."
Washington (CNN) - Saying the United States is "falling behind" in education, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan worked Wednesday to persuade lawmakers that the Obama administration's plan to rewrite a federal education law is the right move for the nation's students and schools.
"A generation ago, we led the world, but we're falling behind. The global achievement gap is growing," he told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
"If we're serious about preparing our nation's young people to compete in a global economy, we must, we must do better than this."
He cited statistics, saying that 27 percent of American high schoolers drop out and that only 40 percent of the country's "young people" earn a two-year or four-year college degree.
"I believe that education is the one true path out of poverty, it has to be the great equalizer in our society," Duncan said.
Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration plans to send a wide-ranging overhaul of the No Child Left Behind education law to Congress on Monday, arguing that the current legislation has pushed schools to lower their standards to meet federal requirements.
The 8-year-old law was one of the signature policies of the Bush administration. It set up a regimen of state reading and math tests for students in third through eighth grades, intended to identify failing schools. But critics have said the Bush administration never properly funded the effort and that states needed more flexibility in meeting those goals.
During his weekly radio address Saturday, President Barack Obama said his administration's proposed overhaul will "set a high bar - but we also provide educators the flexibility to reach it."
"Under these guidelines, schools that achieve excellence or show real progress will be rewarded, and local districts will be encouraged to commit to change in schools that are clearly letting their students down," he said.
During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama said the law's goal was "the right one," but the legislation "has significant flaws that need to be addressed." And Education Secretary Arne Duncan told CNN last week that educators have "lowered the bar" to meet No Child Left Behind standards.
"We've had low expectations - not because it's the right thing educationally, not because it's the right thing for our economy. We did it because of political pressure," Duncan told CNN's "The Situation Room."
Washington (CNN) – Modern education policy makes for strange bedfellows.
Current Education Secretary Arne Duncan and former Education Secretary William Bennett, agreed Tuesday that No Child Left Behind, a trademark initiative of former President George W. Bush, has caused some states to lower educational standards.
"We have dummied-downed standards," Duncan said on CNN's Situation Room. "It's our fault as adults. We've lowered the bar. We've had low expectations – not because it's the right thing educationally, not because it's the right thing for our economy. We did it because of political pressure."
Asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer what he meant by "political pressure," Duncan blamed the previous administration's signature educational policy which created a regime of standardized testing as one of the major indicators of a school's success in educating kids.
"What we've seen under No Child Left Behind is – we saw many states actually reducing standards to respond to that political pressure. That's bad for children, bad for education. Wolf, we've been lying to children in our country."
Watch the interview after the jump:
Washington (CNN) - Education Secretary Arne Duncan has spent the last couple of days backpedaling from comments he made Sunday suggesting Hurricane Katrina was good for New Orleans' failing schools. But, while he's apologizing for poor word choice, his comments echo a truth spoken by many in New Orleans.
"It was a dumb thing to say and I apologize," Duncan told CNN Tuesday.
In a Sunday broadcast of TV One's Washington Watch with Roland Martin, Duncan was asked about the progress New Orleans schools have made since Katrina hit in 2005.
"This is a tough thing to say, but let me be really honest," Duncan replied. "I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. That education system was a disaster, and it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that 'we have to do better.'"
Washington (CNN) – In the president's budget proposal released Monday, the Department of Education would get a 7.5 percent increase in discretionary spending for 2011 under a plan the secretary of education describes as a "cradle to career agenda."
States will have to compete for the vast majority of the new dollars
This is a shift in the way federal education dollars have been allocated in the past.
"We are absolutely philosophically and strategically moving more money – a lot of money – into a competitive basis. And what we want to do is continue to build upon what we've learned through Race to the Top," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters, Duncan said that "when there are real carrots out there, when you're rewarding excellence, we've seen just tremendous progress around the country."
CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) - U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan met Wednesday with a group of teens who were schoolmates of a Chicago youth brutally beaten to death last month.
"I can't tell you how impressed I am. We had a great conversation," Duncan said at a news conference. "These are kids that are overcoming odds that folks in this room have a hard time even comprehending."
He and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also met with Chicago's mayor and community leaders to discuss possible remedies for violent crimes involving young people.
The Cabinet members' visit, ordered by President Obama, was prompted by the beating death of Derrion Albert, a 16-year-old honors student. Authorities said Derrion was caught, unwittingly, in the middle of a street fight between two factions of students from Christian Fenger Academy High School on September 24.
The beating was videotaped with a cell phone.
His death was not an isolated incident: More than 30 youths died violently in Chicago last school year.