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Duncan: Education Plan Would Give Parents Right To Choose How Many Hours Kids Stay at Home
WASHINGTON--Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held a nationally televised address Tuesday to "clarify any misunderstandings" about his extended school day proposal, assuring Americans that under the new bill parents--and not the federal government--will have the right to choose how long kids are kept out of the house.
Duncan was flanked by Mayors Bloomberg, Daley, Fenty, large-city mayors who have taken charge of the schools and who support the extended school day.
Secretary Duncan says that the 47th round of stimulus money will allow every school in America to be open 24/7 by 2011.
"Let me dispel these ridiculous rumors once and for all and set the record straight," said the Secretary. "Although we have set 24/7 as the requirement necessary to ensure that all US students succeed in the Race to the Top, compete in the global economy,participate in the New World Order, and make America proud, under our plan, students will have home visitation rights, end of story."
The Secretary acknowledged that keeping underutilized facilities open and staffed by highly qualified teachers is his No. 1 priority. "We'd like to see every child in America spend half-an-hour quality time with his family at dinner. If you want your kindergartner to spend another half an hour for breakfast, that is your right."
Secretary Duncan was accompanied by Wendy Kopp and Bill and Melinda Gates who announced a 2.3 billion dollar grant to help Teach for America staff the schools 24/7. Duncan noted that this grant will enable Teach for America, the future leaders of America, to "bring the broader societal influence into our nation's schools that our students need. Just think: Ivy League 24/7, whoo-whoo-whoo."
During his 15-minute address, the Secretary repeatedly stressed his deep and abiding respect for parents. "You send us your children. We're going to show them how to race to the top. We're going to keep them off the streets. We're going to keep them out of dysfunctional households. We're going to ensure they are in lead-free environments with fully functioning plumbing. We're going to train them to take standardized tests."
Duncan pointed out that the tragic killing of an honor student in Chicago wouldn't have happened if Congress had acted more quickly on his extended day plan. "Those kids would have been in school, not out on the streets," he said.
Duncan accused his opponents of using scare tactics, manipulating parent fears about upcoming changes in the length of the school day. "Let the record show, this administration is opposed to the government getting more involved in people's lives," Duncan said. "But in times of great change government has typically stepped in to lend a helping hand. That is why we are lengthening the school day to 23Â½ hours."
Republicans expressed some concern that no provisions have been made for church attendance. Democrats praised the plan as forward-looking and applauded the Secretary for relieving parents of the worry of knowing where their children are at 10 p.m.
AFT president Randi Weingarten said the Duncan plan has the chance to "bring stability, accountability and cohesion to the system. We believe there is promise in this model." NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said the union, which represents 3.2 million teachers and other workers, will ask local affiliates to draw up memoranda of understanding with local school districts that would ensure that "the NEA keeps a seat at the table."
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