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Congress Gets No Numbers from Arne Either

In a two-hour hearing today before the House Budget Committee, members of Congress peppered education secretary Arne Duncan with questions seeking more details about President Obama's fiscal 2010 education spending plans. That's something a lot of people, from advocacy groups to media, have been clamoring for.

But Congress couldn't get any answers, either.

Duncan wouldn't budge on how much more money will be allotted to Title I or special education, or whether there will be funding for the Washington, D.C. voucher program in the president's budget. (Duncan did, however, echo the president's sentiments that current voucher students shouldn't have their schooling disrupted.) Read his prepared testimony here.

He did, however, use his first appearance at a congressional hearing to explain his overall approach to changes he will seek during No Child Left Behind reauthorization. He said that NCLB got what's "loose" and "tight" backwards...that the law is very loose on the education goals but very tight on how schools should get there. He wants to flip that, he said, and be very clear that schools and districts and states need college-ready, internationally benchmarked academic standards.

Republicans used the hearing as an opportunity to grill him on the D.C. voucher program (he said vouchers aren't a long-term solution but then talked about not disrupting current kids' educations), federal versus local control of the school curriculum (Duncan says he's more a believer of local curriculum decisions now than he even was in Chicago), and why a new $2.5 billion program to support innovative state efforts to help low-income students complete college is a mandatory and not discretionary program (because the ed department wants a stable funding source.)

And, in what has to be one of Duncan's least verbose answers to a question, he said that the answer to getting ineffective teachers out of the classrooms is: "You remove them."

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