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Duncan faces obstacles in school plans

Duncan faces obstacles in school plans
Secretary of Education nominee Arne Duncan testifies at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health and Education Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009. (UPI Photo/David Brody) | License Photo

WASHINGTON, June 2 (UPI) -- U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan faces many obstacles in his drive to close and then reopen thousands of troubled schools with new staffs, experts say.

The former chief of the Chicago Public Schools says he's aware of the opposition he's likely to face from local school boards, administrative staffs and especially from teachers unions, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

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But Duncan told the newspaper he had already discussed his plans with the presidents of the two national teachers unions, saying, "I've told them we all have to play by a different set of rules and figure out how we're going to take this on together."

Because the federal government doesn't have the authority to close schools, Duncan will need to persuade local districts to undertake school turnarounds sure to anger teachers and other officials.

"What I've raised with Arne is wholesale firing of staffs, pretending that if you just close a school and open a new one it will solve all the problems -- that's the wrong way," Randi Weingarten, president of one of the American Federation of Teachers, told the Times. However, he said that Duncan's focus on improving the worst schools was "the right strategy."

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