The Path to Prosperity Lies in Investing in Education

Secretary Duncan at Portland Town Hall

Official Department of Education Photo by Paul Wood

“The path to prosperity lies in investing judiciously in education, [and] modernizing schools and crumbling infrastructure,” Secretary Duncan said yesterday in Portland, Ore., speaking at the Oregon Business Associations’ annual Statesman Dinner. Arne delivered the keynote address after holding a town hall with the Oregon Education Association earlier in the day.

During both stops in Portland, Duncan highlighted how the American Jobs Act will keep teachers in the classroom and help modernize and repair American’s aging public schools.

“The President’s bill includes two education components,” Duncan explained. “It would keep teachers in the classroom instead of on unemployment lines. And it would put construction workers back to work modernizing and repairing public schools and community colleges.”

Read more about how the American Jobs Act, and see how the President’s proposal will impact your state.


  1. Investment in education is an investment of long term and for long returns in future. It really invites prosperity. I am in support of such education bills.

  2. Teachers are in unemployment lines because the communities where they work are unwilling or unable to support them with THEIR taxes.

    What a great plan to FORCE this cost on taxpayers despite the fact their voice has already been heard.

    Washington’s takeover of education in America continues including Obama’s back door takeover of student loans with his so called health reform bill. Wall Street laughs all the way to the bank while they feed off billions in taxpayer money being thrown at diploma mill for profit colleges.

    The real kicker…. allow “students” of these Wall Street colleges to put their loans in forbearance and deferment for years and years to keep them off the radar unlike those caught in the housing meltdown.

    In closing cities should decide how to spend THEIR money. Instead they’re shot in the back by a bunch of greedy politicians that continue to run America into the ground billions at a time.

  3. Whether it be local or national
    If you have any fame to your name
    Realize that our educational woes aren’t due to teachers and schools
    But that society’s attitude toward public ed. is to blame.
    PLEASE use your influence
    So America’s SURE TO WIN this game.


  4. Usually, there is a return on an investment. How much money have we “invested” in education and what has been the return? Where does the money go that we “invested” the last time we were urged to invest in education. Call it what it is — spending! At least we won’t expect a return on our money by doing so.

  5. Open letter to Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education
    October 16, 2011
    Dear Secretary Duncan;
    As you visit Puerto Rico for the first time as Secretary of Education of the United States, you will hear many things from many people regarding the state of our public schools and the ways to fix them. You will surely be informed about attempts to improve public schools in Puerto Rico through training teachers and school leaders, enhancing curriculum, reforming governance, and making sorely needed infrastructure improvements. As a 35-year career educator and policy researcher, I can assure you that improving K-12 education will have to go beyond these strategies, ultimately requiring Puerto Rico’s economic growth, addressing economic inequalities, and creating public schools that attract children and parents of all social classes. I hope that you will consider these contextual factors as you work with us to weigh and implement the best strategies to ensure excellent public schools in Puerto Rico.
    Puerto Rico certainly merits your attention for at over 700,000 students, K-12 enrollment in Puerto Rico is greater than that of ten states. During your visit, you may not hear about important differences and similarities between Puerto Rico’s public school system compared to those of the 50 states that will be central to the policy decisions that will follow your visit. Let me share three of these:
    One significant difference between Puerto Rico and the 50 states is that of private school enrollment. Approximately 12 percent of K-12 students in the fifty states are enrolled in private schools, whereas over 30 percent of students in Puerto Rico are enrolled in private schools. Puerto Rico’s private school enrollment rate is more similar to Latin American countries.
    The poverty rate in Puerto Rico (45%) is over double that of any state, including your poorest state of Mississippi (22%). Even with these high poverty rates, families who can afford it – and obviously, many families who cannot afford it—are paying private school tuition for their children. Why is that?
    It is not because there are not sufficient seats, because the number of students in public schools is declining, leaving public school seats empty. Parents are choosing private schoos even though money is tight and public schools are free.
    The growth in private K-12 education is due to a common perception that public schools are of low quality, and that they are dangerous. Parents recognize that there are some high performing public schools scattered throughout the system. The demand for space in high performing public schools regularly outpaces the number of available seats. Parents who choose to send their children to private schools also express interest in making sure that their children have friends who are from “good families” (buenas familias).
    A second significant characteristic of the education system in Puerto Rico is that it is highly segregated by social class. The most economically disadvantaged students in grades K-12 are concentrated in the public school system.
    The K-12 system in the fifty states is also segregated by race and ethnicity. In Puerto Rico, racial designations are more complicated, as they are in places like Brazil. But even so, if you visit an elite private school, you will see more blond and light-skinned children than if you visit a typical public school. And as in many of the fifty states, some schools have a concentrated population of immigrant students. In Puerto Rico, the largest immigrants student population is from the Dominican Republic.
    A third feature of our educational system is that in spite of the dramatic impact of the economic recession, K-12 private school enrollment increasing slightly while public school enrollment is decreasing substantially. This is different than in the fifty states where the economic recession is cited as the main reason why private school enrollment is decreasing. Public school students are dropping out more.
    Where are the students who are leaving public schools?
    Some students may be leaving with their families; others are enrolling in private schools. The scarcity of jobs in the formal economy means that school dropouts are unlikely to find jobs there. The informal and underground economies are growing, as evidenced by the growing crime rate on the island.
    Schools and non-profit organizations have developed programs to help keep students in school. Many of these initiatives are supported by our small philanthropic sector. But when students do not see jobs at the end of their studies, they can find it hard to justify the time and effort that they have to put into their studies. Without job creation and economic development, the job of decreasing dropout rates becomes a failed enterprise. Jobs and education go together, not simply because schools provide the educated citizens for available jobs, but because good jobs make a good education an attractive proposition.
    Puerto Rico is a poor country, even though our infrastructure in some areas might fool visitors. Some might argue that it is a good thing that many students choose private schools, because state expenditures are reduced. As you well know, that is a foolish argument for reasons of which you are well aware:
    • Inadequate schools lead to higher dropout rates, and numerous studies show that school dropouts have a higher tendency to be involved in criminal behavior. An investment in good schools can prevent even bigger social investments later in the form of prisons and incalculable costs to human lives.
    • Weak public schools contribute to increasing segregation, as the wealthier opt to send their children to private schools. The social fabric of well functioning societies requires healthy interactions and bonds of trust and cooperation among its members. The experience of segregation as the children can make it more difficult to weave a strong social fabric. Dealing with the legacy of segregation in places like the United States and South Africa is a monumental and continuing task. We need to find ways to stem the increasing segregation of schools in Puerto Rico.
    • Many parents of private school children are not opposed to enrolling their children in public schools when they are considered high quality schools. There is ample evidence that those who pay to have their children in private schools in Puerto Rico, happily place these same children in public schools if they move to the United States. And they also pay significant property taxes in those states and neighborhoods with good public schools.
    The news coverage of your visit anticipates that you will somehow promote the establishment of charter schools in Puerto Rico. As you know, there is no research evidence to support the notion that charter schools improve public education. Thus, I hope that this is not the solution that emerges from your visit. Improving our public education system does not lend itself to simple solutions.
    Effective and lasting solutions will require addressing persistent segregation and inequality, creating jobs that will make schooling worth the investment of a young person’s time, and making public schools attractive to all social classes. Developing a plan for these changes cannot be left up to politicians, the Department of Education, or teachers unions. Real and enduring change will only occur through a participatory and broad-based discussion of existing alternatives and promising innovations with meaningful citizen participation and public accountability as cornerstones of any new plan.

  6. I find it interesting that there appears to be a more pragmatic approach to investing in Education in the USA when compared to Great Britain.

    Personally I am colse to retirement but have watched, almost powerless to help (other that local or government elections) to the slow steady erosion of the teaching of practical hands on skills such as Woodwork, Engineering, Technical Drafting etc.

    The sad loss of much of the manufacturing base in UK is no doubt reflected in the USA as well as many of the other formerly great manufacturing nations and most of that capacity has ended up in the far east.

    Yes, it has to be agreed that for the period 1970’s to almost the present day the Far East economies prospered but the time is right to start bringing the western advances in technology back and developing our children, students and young worker to use these new ideas to produce the next generation of consumer goods, infrastructure development, medicines and whatever else we used to be good at, back home.

    By creating modern technology centres or centres of excellence for the sciences with the latest facilities, preferably manufactured in country the veil of despair will be lifted.

    I hope the government of Great Britain begins to follow your lead.

    If the investment in training the core skills is not redeveloped, enhanced and presented in a way that stimulates interest we have a chance, without it, I’m afraid that much of what was taken for granted in the years since WW2 will be gone – forever.

    • If education is the long-term answer why has it continued to do such a lousy job? Teachers unions are more interested in their contracts and laying off lower seniority teachers to save their own bloated benefits. There are many good teachers, but the federal/state systems have over-reached and stifled meaningful results in the education of our children. I still say that once I completed my fourth grade education, the rest was a real waste, until I entered a private college. Educators have yet to realize that the cookie cutter approach is not working. The key to a successful education is exposing the individual child to his/her potential passions and fostering them to fruition for a happy and productive life.

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