On the day President Barack Obama released an ad criticizing the education plan of his Republican presidential opponents, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke to Baltimore County educators about the need to invest in education.
"Reform is important ... unfortunately, America is slipping," Duncan said Wednesday during a speech at .
The address was part of a school system professional development event.
Find more photos from the speech on Patch.
The said that the Democratic president had already spent about $60 billion to keep teachers in the classroom, and was looking to spend an additional $25 billion on that effort.
"[Obama] fundamentally believes in education as the pathway out of poverty, and a pathway to a strong and secure future," said Duncan, an Obama appointee.
As a main focal point, Duncan said that teachers—which he called the "heart and soul of the education system"—deserve better pay. He noted that about half of young teachers starting in the school system leave within five years. Some bright minds don't even consider the profession because of the low salaries, he added.
The Obama administration has asked Congress for $5 billion "to get the ball rolling," he said.
"I know that none of you went into education to get rich," he told the audience of educators. "But you shouldn't have to take a vow of poverty either."
A teacher from asked the secretary how teachers would receive the $60,000 to $120,000 salaries the Obama administration proposes given local jurisdictions' financial issues. Duncan responded that at the federal, state and local level, school officials would need to look at existing pots of funding and make the salaries a priority.
At a press briefing following the address, Duncan criticized the 20 percent in education cuts called for in presumed Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan. Duncan said Ryan's proposed cuts would include more that $2 billion from struggling Title I schools and $3 billion from special education programs.
"Well, I just think...that education is an investment, not an expense," Duncan said.
Additionally, Duncan pointed to the , rise of technology and communication efforts such as The RESPECT Project (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching), which promotes a national conversation among educators and school officials, as essential to reforming education in the country.
"We're asking more from all of us...because this is how we get better," he said.
, the 2011-2012 Maryland Teacher of the Year, said he appreciated Duncan's collaborative spirit.
"I thought [Duncan's presentation] was well thought out," Parker said. "The groundwork is there, now we'll just have to wait on the legs."
Perry Hall Patch Editor Emily Kimball contributed to this report.