In Arkansas, Duncan Reflects on Clinton Education Legacy

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At the Little Rock airport, the Secretary checks e-mail to get speech updates for tonight's address.

At the Little Rock airport, the Secretary checks e-mail to get speech updates for tonight's address.

LITTLE ROCK—On the eve of his “Courage in the Classroom” tour, Secretary Duncan touched down this afternoon in Arkansas’s capital city and is preparing for a speech tonight on our national imperative to regain our global standing in education. Recognizing that great teachers are essential to achieving this goal, Arne will also discuss ways we can better support teachers in continually improving their skills, recognize and reward those who are most successful at this critical job, and arm parents with useful information on their children’s education.

Tonight’s lecture is part of a series put on by the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service and was to take place at the library and museum to the 42nd president. But when more than 1,000 people expressed interest in attending, it had to be moved to Little Rock’s convention center to accommodate the crowd.

Both as governor of Arkansas and as president, Bill Clinton was an early and active voice in the education reform movement. While in the White House, he pioneered a financial aid program that made the federal government, instead of private banks, the direct lender to college students. This year, Congress expanded the direct lending program, fully eliminating wasteful subsidies to banks and recouping billions of dollars in savings to send millions more needy students to college and invest in our nation’s community college system.

President Clinton also spurred states toward rigorous standards in elementary and secondary education and better assessments of student learning. And in the last year, under the leadership of governors and state education chiefs along with incentives from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), the movement toward higher standards has advanced considerably, with 36 states and the District of Columbia—and counting—signing on to a common set of college- and career-ready standards that they developed together. ARRA is providing $350 million to develop a set of 21st century assessments that will better measure students’ readiness for college and careers, and the Department plans to award that money to groups of states in the coming weeks.

President Clinton also passed a school-to-work law, recognizing one of the ultimate goals of education—to prepare students for careers that are rewarding to themselves and to society. The Obama administration’s education agenda continues this emphasis on preparation for the workplace, and the Department of Education has proposed regulations to ensure that career-focused college programs are providing training that leads to gainful employment for their graduates.

So, in many aspects of its education agenda, the Obama administration is building on programs and policies for students that began in the Clinton administration nearly two decades ago. (And, coincidentally, President Clinton’s education secretary, Dick Riley, also marked the back-to-school season with a bus tour.) Secretary Duncan plans in his speech tonight to salute the former president for “for his life of service to his state and his nation, and his continuing work on behalf of disadvantaged people both here and abroad.”

The Department's Teaching Ambassador Fellows met the tour bus in Little Rock.

The Department's Teaching Ambassador Fellows met the tour bus in Little Rock.

“He is an inspiration to people of every generation,” Arne plans to say. “He has made a difference in so many ways for so many people and yet—by all appearances—he shows no signs of slowing down. He is—in the fullest sense—a public servant whose extraordinary insights into the challenges facing our world are exceeded only by his tireless efforts to address them.”

Look for coverage of the Secretary’s remarks later this evening on the bus tour’s blog.

Massie Ritsch
Office of Communications & Outreach