Duncan to Campaign for Democrats in Illinois, Colorado

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he will campaign for Democratic candidates including Alexi Giannoulias in Illinois, Senator Michael Bennet in Colorado and Representative Tom Perriello in Virginia.

Candidates who “want folks voting on their education record” will get support, Duncan said today at a breakfast with reporters in Washington. He said campaigning set for next month won’t politicize education.

Duncan, the former chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools, has sought bipartisan support for his education overhaul. He was joined last year by former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the Reverend Al Sharpton in a three-city tour to advance education reform.

Giannoulias, seeking to fill the Senate seat previously held by Barack Obama, also has had fundraising help from Vice President Joe Biden and David Plouffe, Obama’s presidential campaign manager.

Duncan said he will continue seeking support for legislation letting children of illegal immigrants earn citizenship after spending two years in college or the military. Senate Democrats were thwarted yesterday in a bid to pass legislation that included the provision. U.S. lawmakers are “not in the right place on this one,” Duncan said.

A third round of funding for the “Race to the Top” state competition, which seeks to push states to raise standards for public schools, should expand to provide money to local districts as well as states, Duncan said.

Local Decisions

“Every community should decide at the local level” what to do with the grants, Duncan said. “Washington is not going to prescribe” a solution as the government did in “No Child Left Behind,” the plan adopted during President George W. Bush’s administration, he said.

The Obama program encourages states to assign talented teachers and principals to the worst schools to raise student achievement, and is backed by $100 billion in federal stimulus money. Duncan said he would like to make new awards early next year. The department also has pushed for funds to support higher education, he said.

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