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Originally published Monday, June 1, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Education Secretary Duncan should come to Washington state

Education Secretary Arne Duncan's "Listening and Learning" road trip ought to include a detour to Washington state.


Reports and video of the tour:

EDUCATION Secretary Arne Duncan's "Listening and Learning" national tour of public schools ought to include Washington state if federal officials are serious about understanding education reform's local impact.

Our state is at a crossroads. An ambitious education plan recently approved by the Legislature was a major hurdle crossed. The next hurdle is a question: where do we go from here?

Debates in this state about education reform rarely rise above the level of money. Granted, it will take a major investment to turn all schools around, but without planning and general consensus, the cash will be useless.

Duncan could learn from this region as well as lend guidance. Federal input wouldn't be intrusive, it would be welcomed. Education stimulus dollars account for the largest spending increase ever. This state will use much of the money to mitigate education cuts imposed by the state Legislature, but millions will be available with varying degrees of flexibility. The new rule in spending should be money spent on unproven efforts is money wasted.

Encouraging signs from Duncan, and President Obama, are the two men's refusal to simply throw money at public education's many problems. The administration is wise to to take its impressive education agenda, which includes early childhood, higher standards, teacher quality, workforce development and higher education, to the people.

Consider this the warm up before Congress delves into reauthorization of the federal No Child Left Behind law. The massive law should be tweaked, necessary improvements include additional flexibility and money, but not abandoned.

A trip here would allow Duncan to make clear the administration's commitment to the federal education law. This is our civil rights principle for the 21st century. Earlier this month, Duncan told college graduates that all of the anti-poverty programs in the world will never do as much as a good education. We agree. Now please come and say it to our faces.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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