Education Secretary to Memphis, Shelby County: Go for the Gold

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Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (left) and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander listen to Memphis schools superintendent Criner Cash
  • JB
  • Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (left) and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander listen to Memphis schools superintendent Criner Cash
Challenging Memphis and Shelby County to compete vigorously with other localities for billions of dollars in federal funds, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan met in Memphis this week with U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and a variety of other political, business, and educational leaders, including 9th district Congressman Steve Cohen, Memphis schools superintendent Criner Cash, and members of the Tennessee legislature.

Duncan and Alexander met on Monday with the others at two local venues — the Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering, where STEM education (for science, technology, engineering, and math) was the subject, and the Soulsville Charter School on McLemore, where the future of charter schools formed the core of a wide-ranging discussion of education.

. Both stops were part of what Duncan has billed as his “Listening and Learning Tour.”

Summing up after the Soulsville conversation, Duncan told the media, “Because of the leadership of the president and the support of the Congress, we’ve got unprecedented discretion and resources. We’ve been able to see dramatic changes around the country in the past seven months, whether it’s 47 states coming together to think about common standards or a number of states, including Tennessee, removing restrictions on innovations, like charter laws.”

Calling himself a “huge fan” of Alexander’s, whose tenure as governor a generation ago was characterized by an a focus on educational change, Duncan, said, “We’d love to see the city and state compete vigorously for funding. We’re looking for dramatic change, not incremental change.” He said more than $10 billion would shortly be available under such sources as “Race to the Top, Teacher Incentive Funds, and Investment in Innovation funds.”

During the discussion at Soulsville, Alexander had recalled the Master Teacher program introduced under his administration as governor 25 years ago to reward innovative teachers and suggested that a local version of it might well qualify for Teacher Incentive Funds.

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