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Duncan: Teacher Salaries Should Be $60,000 to $150,000

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called for a radical upending of the nation's teaching pipeline—higher salaries, improved performance-based teacher accountability, and a higher bar for prospective students to enter schools of education.

In remarks today to a conference of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, he called for teachers to start out making $60,000 a year, topping out at around $150,000. His speech comes as thousands of teachers from across the country descend on the nation's capital to protest many of the Obama administration's policies, from the increasing reliance on standardized tests to using test scores to help evaluate teachers.

"We must think radically differently," he said, according to prepared remarks. "We must ask and answer hard questions on topics that have been off limits in the past like staffing practices and school organization, benefits packages and job security—because the answers may give us more realistic ways to afford these new professional conditions."

Top salaries of $150,000 a year won't come cheap, and Duncan acknowledged as much.

"And it will cost money—and—given the current political climate with the nation wrestling with debt and deficits—I am sure some people will immediately say that we can't afford it without even looking at how to redirect the money we are already spending—and mis-spending.

He called on colleges of education to raise the bar for prospective students, to lure the brightest in. "Top undergraduates will flock to a profession that demands high standards and credentials," he said.

Although Duncan's remarks today shouldn't surprise anyone, this does mark a fresh, reinvigorated push from the secretary, who wants to help remake the way we find, educate, evaluate, and compensate the nation's teaching force. He's already pushed states to alter policies on merit pay and teacher-student data linkages through the Race to the Top grant competition.

Now, he appears to be using the bully pulpit to continue to advance that message. As he begins to explicitly lay out the problem—the first step in any public policymaking process—expect him in the fall to begin proposing exactly what the Education Department can do to achieve this radical transformation.

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