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Badge of Shame and Bigger Paychecks: Arne Duncan's Mixed Bag Comments for Teachers

By JoshMogerman in News on Sep 11, 2011 6:00PM

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan []
Arne Duncan ended a week-long education and jobs stump speech bus tour in Chicago this week. And he had plenty to say about what is going on in his old stomping grounds at CPS. Some of what he had to say was undoubtedly music to the ears of the Chicago Teachers Union, given the weird and ugly battle brewing with the Emanuel administration (complete with a curious mix of F-bombs and hugs). Friday, he called for a doubling of teacher salaries nationally:
“We need to elevate teachers,’’ Duncan told a gathering of officials and educators in the fresco-ceiling library of Carl Schurz High School.

“I think we need to double salaries for teachers. We need to start them at a much higher level.”
Teachers “shouldn’t have to take a vow of poverty,’’ Duncan said. “Great teachers should have the chance to make — pick a number — $130,000, $140,000, $150,000.’’

But it wasn’t all golden for talk for teachers. Duncan highlighted an issue that has festered with school watchers for years and is the main source of friction between the City and union right now: the embarrassingly short school day. On Thursday, Duncan had this to say:

“Chicago has had the shortest day and year among [large] urban districts for far too long,’’ Duncan told the Chicago Sun-Times in advance of a Friday visit to Schurz High School.

“That’s not a badge of honor. That’s a badge of shame."

Of course, as a former head of CPS Duncan didn’t really manage to tackle either of these issues while he was running the show in Chicago, leaving him open to criticisms of grandstanding with these comments. He acknowledged the school day issue, noting that he would have liked to address it, but “the system couldn’t afford it.’’ Hmmm. Nonetheless, the national perspective on the current CPS battle is important. A city that has seen 200,000 residents leave town since the last census simply can’t afford a school system that is perceived as behind the rest of the nation, forcing many Chicagoans out to the burbs when their kids reach school age.