DALLAS – U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited a Dallas high school this morning and said the district and the Obama administration share the same education goals regarding turning out more college graduates.
Duncan's visit comes at an exciting time for the district since the Department of Education notified Dallas ISD yesterday that it is a finalist for millions in federal Race to the Top funds.
"We have to invest in education," Duncan said Tuesday. "I always say this is the best investment we can make. I fundamentally believe that education is an investment; not an expense."
Duncan was joined in the visit to L.G. Pinkston High School in West Dallas by Superintendent Mike Miles, Dallas Board of Trustees President Lew Blackburn and Mayor Mike Rawlings.
Race to the Top, the Obama administration's signature education policy, has been controversial in Texas. The fund is, in effect, a competition, offering states grant money for schools that bolster student achievement using plans that improve teacher and administrator accountability.
"There's nothing more important we can do than to respect teachers," Duncan added. "Listen to them. Compensation is important, but by itself is simply not enough."
It also places an importance on expanding science, math and technology courses.
Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, blocked the state from seeking the federal money, claiming too many requirements were attached and that it was "irresponsible to place out children's future in the hands of unelected bureaucrats."
Duncan at a news conference said he supported revising the rules to let individual districts seek the money because of Perry's resistance.
"It was a piece of it," he said. "But, again, there's this great reform even in states that received Race to the Top money. There's still great reform going on at the district level and I think, again, we want to continue to invest at the state level, at the district level, at the community level."
Miles and Rawlings both back Dallas ISD getting up to $30 million in federal funds that would be spent on the Pinkston and Lincoln High School attendance zones to increase student graduation rates and college attendance.
"We think that's the best thing and the best plan for kids, moving forward. This is what the district needs, it's ambitious, it's innovative," Miles said.