United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held a conference call Wednesday with reporters from across the nation to discuss President Obama’s educational reform plans.

Duncan quickly summarized Obama’s plans before accepting questions from the press. He spoke about the need for expanding educational access to youth across America, increasing the number of high school and college graduates and retaining teachers by promoting excellence among them and how Obama’s budget provided for these new initiatives.

“[Education] is the way to a better economy and this budget understands how critically important that link is,” Duncan said.

Obama plans to double funding for charter schools across the nation for students kindergarten through the 12th grade, according to Obama’s educational agenda on the White House’s Web site.

“Barack Obama and [Vice President] Joe Biden will double funding for the Federal Charter School Program to support the creation of more successful charter schools,” the site states. “The Obama-Biden administration will provide this expanded charter school funding only to states that improve accountability for charter schools, allow for interventions in struggling charter schools and have a clear process for closing down chronically underperforming charter schools. Obama and Biden will also prioritize supporting states that help the most successful charter schools to expand to serve more students.”

“[We will] do everything we can to make sure every dollar is spent wisely,” Duncan said. “But at the end of the day, we all have a responsibility in this . to be a watch dog [on the appropriateness of educational spending]. [We will] highlight innovative practices but where we see a state or district doing something counter to our intent . if it is not operating in good faith, we will withhold the second set of money,” the site said.

Duncan added that creativity will be key in order to ensure the retention of faculty,.

“We want to find ways to be creative at a couple of different levels: rewarding excellence, encouraging the next generation of teachers to enter the profession, reward excellence for those who go into the toughest communities, and find ways to close shortages and gaps in some communities,” he said.

On the collegiate level, Duncan stated that the administration’s main goal is to make tuition more affordable.

“[We want a] remarkable breakthrough at the college level,” he said. “The time of going to college has not been so important or as expensive [as it is now].”

He added that the money being allotted to higher education should be used to have states work with colleges and universities so that students are not just entering school, but also graduating.

According to Obama’s educational agenda on the White House’s Web site, Obama also plans to create an American Opportunity Tax Credit, which will reduce the cost of attending college for credit recipients.

“This universal and fully refundable credit will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, and will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college or university and make community college tuition completely free for most students,” according to the agenda.

It will be necessary for any student receiving this credit to perform 100 hours of community service, however.

Duncan concluded his conference saying that educational reforms are not just about money.

“[We have to] challenge the status quo,” he said. “It’s not just about money, but much more innovative. [We must] really engage the best and the brightest in talent and turn the around schools.”

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