Avondale Mayor/Education Secretary

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Avondale Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers met with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, other mayors and school superintendents in Washington, D.C. recently. They discussed partnership opportunities between cities and the U.S. Department of Education to create effective approaches to education reform. Mayor Rogers, the National League of Cities’ President, will talk about what was discussed in that meeting.

Ted Simons: Avondale Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers met with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan along with other mayors and school superintendents last week in Washington. The meeting focused on partnership opportunities between cities and the U.S. Department of Education to create effective approaches to education reform. For more on the meeting we welcome Mayor Rogers who serves as president of the National League of Cities. Let's talk more about this meeting of secretaries. What was all this about?

Marie Lopez Rogers: We have an education task force which our first and second vice presidents, one from Minnesota, one from Salt Lake, are chairing this task force. We feel the need to be at the table when it comes to education policy. So mayors are coming together all over the country. We need to make sure that they are listening to us.

Ted Simons: And what do you want them to hear? Why should they be listening to you?

Marie Lopez Rogers: Well, there is certainly an opportunity and education is global, certainly it's an economic impact to all cities and towns across the nation if our education system isn't where it needs to be. So we want them to understand that we need to be at the table when they are talking about policy that may affect us. And with mayors across the nation, certainly councilmembers are working with their education folks to make a better community through education. And so we want that to -- for them to hear. I know it is a priority for the administration, as well.

Ted Simons: Has that partnership been a little lopsided in the past?

Marie Lopez Rogers: Well, we have antiquated policy that's been around for a very long time. I don't know that it's working as it used to be, at this point in time. We want them to make sure they take another look at it and see if we can't help them to restructure it.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about some issues of concern here. I notice that balancing accountability with schools and teachers and cities. Accountability is a word used here. What does that mean with regard to what you're looking at as a group?

Marie Lopez Rogers: They are having a tough time, just as we're having a tough time in cities. The accountability needs to be not only -- it's a teacher level, making sure that the teachers are teaching the children what they need to be learning. But certainly the funding level is also critical for them, as well. There's the accountability, not only from the federal but from the state and certainly the local officials.

Ted Simons: I notice turning schools into centers for the community, providing wrap-around services to kids and families, that sounds like a community center to me.

Marie Lopez Rogers: It does sound like a community center. We are just trying to incorporate those services that are badly needed in the schools. They are losing a lot of the music, certainly some of those critical services, whether it's counseling or -- and we're able with our partnerships, with our nonprofits, to support their efforts. We're making sure that we're supporting their efforts.

Ted Simons: When we approach a secretary, the education chief on something like this on a federal level, how do you make that relevant? How do you get a response that's going to make some sense?

Marie Lopez Rogers: Certainly mayors were giving stories of their own cities and towns and what they are working on, and how they are struggling to make sure it happens. One instance is the municipal tax bond. That's going to be critical not only to the cities but to the schools. That's an issue that's going to be critical as they are moving forward on the budget.

Ted Simons: You have another issue of concern, to build a cradle to career model. Explain, please.

Marie Lopez Rogers: Well, certainly. Before children are born you need to have prenatal care, they certainly have to grow up in a healthy home. And hopefully they continue their education, making education a priority having parents involved in their schooling. These days it's very difficult for them to do that.

Ted Simons: And again, what can the Feds do to help strengthen this educational pipeline, if you will?

Marie Lopez Rogers: Some of the policies that they are working on right now will probably need to be fine-tuned. Again, we want to be at the table, I believe, so we can have some input when we're working together on that.

Ted Simons: Another issue is appropriating college access. What is holding back college access now?

Marie Lopez Rogers: Well, there are a lot of things going on, they are all different across the nation. Whether it's tuition or first-time going to college, or being able to access that level, whether it's community colleges that can be helpful, there's many places they could be working on. We just want to ensure our children are receiving the education into the future.

Ted Simons: So again, as far as the mid to upper aspects, did you find, do they different much from state to state?

Marie Lopez Rogers: They really didn't. We all have the same issues, it's just education, getting children to continue their education. Parenting involvement, schools channeling.

Ted Simons: So what can cities do then to further the process and, again, get that partnership going, and maybe get a place at the table, at least a more prominent place at the table.

Marie Lopez Rogers: So with my own city, we have six councilmembers, each is assigned a school district. We've had a conference, if you will, in our city so we can have that communication well between their citizens, our schools and the nonprofits.

Ted Simons: When you compare with others, there are different approaches and different ways of looking at it.

Marie Lopez Rogers: I think the reform is actually speaking to the school districts. I think that hasn't been done for a long time. I think it's been territorial, if you will, I think we've learned that we need to work together. It's all about the family and the child in that family.

Ted Simons: Is the message getting through?

Marie Lopez Rogers: Secretary Duncan said he will partner with us and they will work with us.

Ted Simons: When you were at the meeting obviously he was listening. What did you get out of the meeting after you left? Anything tangible, or kind of a pep rally?

Marie Lopez Rogers: It was our first real meeting with him as voters. We're going to go back and resolve what we are and our next steps. I felt from his conversation he was willing to do that, and he had quite a number of staff there to do that, as well.

Ted Simons: So what does come next? What do you want to see come of this?

Marie Lopez Rogers: Well, you know, there's a lot to do yet, and there's a lot of mayors to talk to and certainly a lot to do next -- back together, figure out those next steps. Our national league of cities, has a youth education and family department that actually does white paper for cities and towns. For me, it's to engage and educate our member board, a better place for them.

Ted Simons: Last week we talked about how some are seeing the balance of power lifting toward cities and states out there. What are you seeing out there?

Marie Lopez Rogers: Well, I see the same thing. So we're held accountable. We see if there's a problem and we want to get the problem solved. How do we do that if we don't do it together?

Ted Simons: Mayor, thank you very much.

Marie Lopez Rogers: Appreciate it.

Marie Lopez Rogers:President, National League of Cities';

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