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Education secretary says U.S. has to 'challenge complacency' on issues for teachers, students

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said the United States is falling behind other nations on education issues and asked for bipartisan support to “Raise the Bar” with an investment in schools. File Photo by Sean Rayford/UPI
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said the United States is falling behind other nations on education issues and asked for bipartisan support to “Raise the Bar” with an investment in schools. File Photo by Sean Rayford/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Saying the United States is falling behind other nations on education issues, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Tuesday asked for bipartisan support to "Raise the Bar" with an investment in schools.

Cardona discussed the "Raise the Bar: Lead the World" initiative in a livestream on Tuesday. The initiative is a call to action for lawmakers and educators, urging them to ensure access to crucial skills and an improved learning environments.

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"Education opens doors. As a student, as a teacher, school principal, and as a parent, I've seen firsthand the way it transforms lives. That's why, when we talk about the future of education, I could not believe more strongly that we have to Raise the Bar," said Cardona.

"We have what it takes to lead the world in education, but it will take the collective will to challenge complacency and status quo in education and focus on substance, not sensationalism. Working together, I know we can do it."

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The secretary said the initiative is meant to be more substantial than a catchy slogan that will be lost as the sense of urgency fades. He underscored the need to bring learning standards back to where they were pre-pandemic and push them higher.

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The United States ranked 36th out of 79 countries in mathematics following a Program for International Student Assessment, Cardona said.

While U.S. education has tumbled, wages for educators have stagnated. The average weekly wage for a teacher has increased by 2% over the last 25 years. Cardona said it is time to increase the investment in teachers to meet the challenges of the modern economic landscape.

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By raising wages, Cardona said, he believes more people will be attracted to the field of education and that will offset today's national teacher shortage.

He also reaffirmed the importance of forgiving student loans for public servants such as teachers.

"Raising the bar for the profession means better professional learning and career expanding opportunities such as master teacher status, teacher leader experiences, free advancement education for those who qualify and deserve it," he said.

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"Lifting the profession also means respecting the voice and seeking the input of teachers when creating policies, not just asking teachers to co-sign someone else's plan. True, authentic engagement requires shared ownership and multiple perspectives. Second only to parents, who knows the students best?"

Cardona voiced his support for President Joe Biden's plan for free universal early education to remove barriers for young children beginning to learn.

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Mental health accessibility in school is another aspect of education Cardona wants to see grow, he said, adding that he would like to see at least one counselor for every 250 students, as well as better training on dealing with trauma.

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