In a discussion with business leaders and others at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event April 16, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said they must step up their political advocacy to defend the Common Core State Standards and other changes to K-12 policy.
He told the audience at the chamber's "Upgrade America" event (focusing on improving the quality of the labor force through education) that he did not want to see a repeat of when the business community went silent after the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act and states responded by "dummying down" their standards. "I don't understand why the business community is so passive when these kinds of things happen," he said.
The common core was a big topic at the meeting. Before Duncan spoke, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said he was "very concerned" by the recent decision of the Republican National Committee to officially oppose the common core, and said governors up for re-election in 2014 might start to get nervous about supporting it. (The RNC voted to oppose the common core on April 12 at a meeting in Los Angeles.)
"I think that could have an impact at the executive level of states," Luna said.
New Mexico Secretary-Designate of Education Hanna Skandera, however, stressed that common core was only a first step in improving education, and that the business community had a valuable lesson to teach as the "end user" of public schools: "You either make it, or you don't."
On other topics Duncan was more upbeat. He said he was pleased, for example, with how President Barack Obama's early-education initiative was being received by people such as GOP Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama.
While Duncan said he was pleased with the way waivers from the NCLB law had proceeded with states, he mentioned that he was meeting later that days with U.S. Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the Senate's top two legislators on K-12 policy, to discuss the feasibility of reauthorizing the law in the foreseeable future.