U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is making a stop at Purdue University in West Lafayette and Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis today as part of the department's sixth annual back-to-school bus tour.
The focus of the eleven-stop, seven-state Midwest trek is how local communities can engage with students, from prek to higher education. But Duncan will likely have a lot to say specifically about education in the Hoosier State.
Duncan’s department has recently lauded State Superintendent Glenda Ritz’s office by awarding a three-year extension of the No Child Left Behind waiver and handing out $1.4 million in improvement grants to eight struggling Indiana schools, including Phalen Leadership Academies’ School 103 in the Indianapolis Public Schools district.
Here are some takeaways from an interview WFYI Public Media conducted with Duncan Tuesday:
On former-Governor and Purdue President Mitch Daniels
During a Mind Trust event in June, Daniels told the audience he talks with Duncan to bounce off ideas. Wednesday will be Duncan's first visit to Purdue’s flagship West Lafayette campus:
“I have a huge amount of respect for Gov. Daniels. I really enjoyed working with him when he was governor … He's done a great job at keeping down costs (at Purdue). As you may know, he is looking to start a high school to increase the number of minority students in STEM and hopefully have them matriculate to Purdue. So it is a good chance to spend some time with him. I always learn something when I talk with him … I love the idea of not just trying to run a great university but trying to run great schools on the K-12 side. I think Purdue could provide a lot of leadership there.”
On Indiana’s new preschool pilot program
Duncan has voiced concerns over the state's On My Way Pre-K because it denies access to undocumented children. As Chalkbeat first reported, the program, open to about 2,300 children in five counties, blocked children of immigrant families from enrolling if they are not U.S. citizens. Gov. Pence’s office has said they are just following federal guidelines.
Yet, Duncan issued a statement last month criticizing the state’s stance. He hopes to touch base about the issues with state officials Wednesday:
"It just doesn’t make any sense to me ... The children are not here for any fault of their own and people can pass judgement or not pass judgement on their parents or whatever. But to say to children -- who are going to come to a public school at kindergarten -- to say, you don’t have the right or opportunity to great preschool education just means they are going to start school further behind. It means it will be harder on their teachers. Harder on their classmates. It is not fair to them. It is not fair to their families. I don't understand that mentality. I don't think that is who we are as Americans."
On increasing success for men of color
During the event at Crispus Attucks, Duncan will discuss My Brother's Keeper -- an initiative of President Obama designed to help young men, specifically ones of color, stay on the right track and close opportunity gaps. IPS and Mayor Greg Ballard have adopted the program. In addition, Ballard's Your Life Matters program will also be discussed:
"If you look at any measure across the nation, whether it is Indianapolis or Indiana or around the country -- we are not seeing the kind of success we desperately need for our young men and young men of color ... We have been really thrilled with what the city has done, what Mayor Ballard has done with My Brother’s Keeper. These are difficult issues -- there is nothing easy about them, taking them on, making them front and center and not hiding from the tough facts and figuring out how collectively we put young men of color on track to be a success."
Dunca's Indiana schedule
- 2:15 p.m. Duncan schedule to speak at Stewart Center’s Loeb Playhouse on the Purdue University campus as part of the Fall 2015 Presidential Lecture Series. The event is open to the public.
- 4 p.m. Duncan schedule for event at Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School, including moderated discussion about the city’s pre-k and Your Life Matters programs and a roundtable-style discussion with area students. The event is closed to the general public.