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Obama’s Education Secretary Says Perry’s Schools Left Behind

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Texas’s school system “has really struggled” under Governor Rick Perry, a Republican candidate for president, and the state’s substandard schools do a disservice to children.

“Far too few of their high school graduates are actually prepared to go on to college,” Duncan said on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt” airing tonight and tomorrow. “I feel very, very badly for the children there.”

“You have seen massive increases in class size,” Duncan said of the Texas public school system during Perry’s terms as governor since December 2000. “You’ve seen cutbacks in funding. It doesn’t serve the children well. It doesn’t serve the state well. It doesn’t serve the state’s economy well. And ultimately it hurts the country.”

Perry has been an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama’s education policies. Perry declined to participate in Obama’s Race to the Top initiative that awards federal grants in exchange for adopting national standards, saying the program “smacks of a federal takeover of public schools.”

Perry said participating “could very well lead to the ‘dumbing down’ of the rigorous standards we’ve worked so hard to enact.” He has called Duncan a “true bureaucrat.”

Perry in June signed a $172.3 billion state budget that included $4 billion in cuts to public schools and cut financial aid to 43,000 college students, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Texas Rankings

The estimated public high school graduation rate in Texas ranks 43rd of the 50 states, at 61.3 percent, according to the Legislative Budget Board’s 2010 Texas Fact Book.

Among 4.75 million students in Texas public schools in 2008-09, the most recent year for statistics compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics, 48.8 percent were eligible for free or reduced lunches and 15.1 percent were in limited-English proficiency programs.

Duncan’s critique of Texas comes days after Perry’s formal entrance into the 2012 presidential race on Aug. 13 and his Aug. 15 comment that it would be “almost treacherous -- or treasonous” if Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke increased stimulus spending before the election.

Mark Miner, a spokesman for the Perry campaign, responded to Duncan’s comments in an e-mail.

“The president’s secretary of education may want to do a little more homework before commenting on education in Texas,” he said. “Under Governor Perry, Texas has been a national leader in adopting college and career-ready curriculum standards that will ensure Texas students graduate prepared to succeed in college and the workplace.”

Miner cited Education Week, in September 2009, as recognizing Texas as a national leader in adopting college and career ready standards. “Texas continues to lead the country in job creation because companies know they can find educated and highly skilled workers here,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Talev in Washington at mtalev@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net.

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