The Secretary of Education Hits Battleground States on Back-to-School Tour

Arne Duncan's 'Education Drives America' tour will focus on topics ranging from technology in schools to rural education.

This fall, Arne Duncan will travel around the U.S. to meet with key education leaders. (Photo: Getty Images)
Suzi Parker is a journalist whose work also appears in The Christian Science Monitor and Reuters.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hits the road every fall as students head back to school.

Duncan kicks off his “Education Drives America tour this Wednesday at Sequoia High School in Redwood City, Calif. This year’s trip crosses from California through the Rocky Mountains into the Midwest before rolling through Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia.

And each stop will be different, according to the U.S. Department of Education website.

More: Obama’s Education Hits and Misses

Duncan will visit with education leaders at each stop but also focus on an array of topics ranging from technology, foreign language education, health screenings, and rural education.

“America's future is directly linked to the quality of education that we provide our children, young people and adults,” Duncan said in a release. “It is the key to a vibrant middle class, strong national security and our global economic competitiveness. This bus tour is an opportunity to highlight what's working and create momentum for education reforms that improve the lives of all students.”

Previous bus tours have included Duncan touring the South’s Delta region and the Northwest in 2010. Last year, he traveled to the heart of the Midwest, including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Education was a key component of the Democratic National Convention’s platform this year.

Perhaps, not coincidentally, Duncan’s trip also hits several swing states for President Barack Obama’s reelection, including Nevada, Colorado, and Virginia. But the tour stops are not billed as campaign events.

In Nevada, Duncan will host a town hall with 700 stakeholders at the University of Nevada, Reno. He will focus on education issues impacting Hispanic Americans, a key demographic in the November elections, as well as college access and affordability, a main campaign topic for the Obama administration. At the Reno event, Marco Davis, deputy director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, will also appear.

Another large event occurs in Limon, Colo., where Duncan will deliver a back-to-school address to 200 students and parents at Limon Public School’s Constitution Day celebration.

Several events are planned in Virginia, a state Obama won in 2008, which is iffier for the president this year in his bid against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

In Roanoke, Duncan hosts a town hall discussion about college and career readiness at Virginia Western Community College. In Richmond, he highlights First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign about confronting and ending childhood obesity.

Davis appears again at this event along with Gabriel Sandoval, senior advisor and director of policy for the Initiative, who will also join Davis in a roundtable with leaders from the Hispanic and education communities in Richmond. There they will discuss college access and college completion for the state’s growing Hispanic population in Virginia and “promote efforts to meet the President’s national goal of once again leading the world in college completion by 2020,” according to a release about the event.

Obama picked Duncan, a longtime friend, soon after he was elected president in 2008. From 2001 until then, he worked as chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools.

When Duncan spoke at the Democratic National Convention, he said, “In order to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires, Governor Romney will cut education for our children. That’s the difference in this election. They see education as an expense. President Obama sees it as an investment.”

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