Bang for the Buck in Schooling
A Conversation with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
About This Event
Video of this event will be livestreamed online at

After three generations of steadily increasing per-pupil spending, American schooling is confronting several years of flat or declining per-pupil revenues. Some analysts project that funding will remain tight for a half decade or more. How can education leaders Listen to Audio

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steer their schools through this fiscally challenging period without slowing the push for reform? How can they make strategic cuts in these tough times to improve efficiency and quality? What kind of leadership and support might the federal government provide on this score? Join us for a conversation with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Superintendent Shawn A. McCollough of Nogales Unified School District, who will discuss the challenge of improving cost-effectiveness in K-12 schooling.


10:15 a.m.


Opening Remarks:
SECRETARY ARNE DUNCAN, U.S. Department of Education

SECRETARY ARNE DUNCAN, U.S. Department of Education
SHAWN A. MCCOLLOUGH, Nogales Unified School District


Question and Answer


Event Summary

WASHINGTON, NOVEMBER 17, 2010--U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed the pressing need for cost-efficiency in America's schools for the first time today at the American Enterprise Institute. Secretary Duncan noted that for the next several years, educators are likely to face the challenge of doing more with less and that "this challenge can, and should be, embraced as an opportunity to make dramatic improvements" in school productivity. Secretary Duncan highlighted several examples of cost-saving opportunities that would not hurt students, including rethinking teacher compensation and class size and integrating technology into school systems. Joining the secretary in discussion, Superintendent Shawn McCollough of the Nogales Unified School District noted that schools and districts need strong leaders who are willing to make the strategic--and sometimes tough--decisions necessary to get better bang for our buck.

For more on how schools and districts can save money while serving students best, see Rick Hess's new edited volume, Stretching the School Dollar.


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Speaker biographies

Arne Duncan was named U.S. secretary of education by President Barack Obama and was confirmed by the Senate on January 20, 2009. Before his appointment, Mr. Duncan was the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools from June 2001 to December 2008, becoming the longest-serving big-city education superintendent in the country. Before joining the Chicago Public Schools, he ran the Ariel Education Initiative (1992-98), a nonprofit focused on advancing educational opportunities in economically disadvantaged areas. He has served on the boards of the Ariel Education Initiative, Chicago Cares, the Children's Center, the Golden Apple Foundation, the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, Jobs for America's Graduates, Junior Achievement, the Dean's Advisory Board of the Kellogg School of Management, the National Association of Basketball Coaches Foundation, the Renaissance Schools Fund, Scholarship Chicago, and the South Side YMCA. He has also served on the board of overseers for Harvard College, the visiting committees for Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, and the board of the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration. From 1987 to 1991, Mr. Duncan played professional basketball in Australia, where he worked with children who were wards of the state.

Frederick M. Hess is a resident scholar and director of education policy studies at AEI. In addition to his Education Week blog Rick Hess Straight Up, he is the author of influential books on education including The Same Thing Over and Over (Harvard University Press, November 2010), Education Unbound (ASCD, 2010), Common Sense School Reform (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Revolution at the Margins (Brookings Institution Press, 2002), and Spinning Wheels (Brookings Institution Press, 1998), as well as the coeditor of the new volume Stretching the School Dollar (Harvard Education Press, 2010). His work has appeared in scholarly and popular outlets such as Teachers College Record, Harvard Education Review, Social Science Quarterly, Urban Affairs Review, American Politics Quarterly, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan, Educational Leadership, U.S. News & World Report, the Washington Post, and National Review. He serves as executive editor of Education Next, as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program, on the review board for the Broad Prize in Urban Education, and on the boards of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and the American Board for the Certification of Teaching Excellence. A former high school social studies teacher, he has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University, and Harvard University.

Shawn Arévalo McCollough is an award-winning, nationally recognized expert on reforming at-risk schools. He is currently the superintendent of the Nogales Unified School District in Arizona, a high-poverty, 99 percent Hispanic district located directly on the U.S.-Mexican border. Recruited from Georgia to lead a dramatic turnaround effort, Mr. McCollough immediately established accountability targets, standardized the curriculum, slashed spending, and engaged the community. After just two years, Nogales has achieved its highest test scores ever, surpassing the state average in many subjects, and cut its budget by over $7 million without laying off a single person. If you ask Mr. McCollough about the turnaround, he will tell you that his leadership principles are very plain. He doesn't believe in throwing money at problems or making excuses; he simply believes that if you have high expectations and accountability, everyone will rise to the challenge.

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