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Duncan Talks GOP Candidates, ESEA, Penn State

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hasn't been following the GOP presidential debates because he has "a real job to do," according to an interview set to air on Bloomberg EDU, a radio program to be broadcast tonight at 10 p.m.

"I have no idea if they are serious or not. I just haven't spent any time, frankly, watching or following that," Duncan said, in response to a question about what he thought of some GOP presidential candidates' plans to scrap the U.S. Department of Education. "What I will say is that we're always trying to think through what is the correct federal role ... so I think there were some things going on at the federal level that weren't helpful."

Campaign 2012Duncan went on to express major misgivings about the bill to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee last month. So far, the department has only praised the committee's bipartisan process and hard work, not the substance of what it did. In particular, the department is unhappy with the bill's handling of teacher evaluation and accountability.

And the secretary treaded that line again in the Bloomberg interview:

"There are some good things in the bill, but you don't want to walk away from accountability, you don't want to walk away from focusing on achievement gaps, you don't want to walk away from making sure we're rewarding great teachers and great principals and shining a spotlight on excellence in education. So you want a good process, but at the end of the day you want really strong policy. And it's early innings, obviously, in the bill that came out of the Senate HELP committee, and we think it can be strengthened going forward. So I applaud the work that's gone on so far, clearly not a finished product, but a long way to go."

On the child abuse allegations at Penn State University, Duncan said the department would conduct a thorough investigation.

"We will have a team that will be on the campus shortly, and they will do a thoughtful and thorough investigation. And we'll just go where the facts lead us."

He also called the situation "any parent's, you know, worst nightmare. .... When you see this kind of behavior it's just sickening. It's absolutely sickening. And you just wish no child has to go through that. And the fact that so many children were possibly abused there, it's stunning."

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