Education Secretary Duncan travels to Haiti to visit schools, discuss reform

Arne Duncan, the peripatetic education secretary, is logging more frequent-flier miles Monday with an unusual trip outside the United States.

Duncan is in Haiti, at the invitation of that country’s education minister, to discuss education reform, a Duncan spokesman said.

Duncan, who is accompanied by eight staffers from the U.S. Department of Education, will spend Monday and Tuesday visiting three schools and meeting national leaders, according to his spokesman, Massie Ritsch.

The secretary “looks forward to meeting with Haitian officials, teachers, parents and students to gain a better understanding of their education system, and to sharing U.S. experiences with education reform that can be useful as Haiti advances its own school improvement agenda,” Ritsch said in an e-mail.

Asked how much the trip is costing taxpayers, Ritsch said that he did not have details but that the trip was roughly equivalent to the department’s costs when Duncan travels domestically, with some additional expenses for security and local interpreters.

Since an earthquake in 2010 devastated the small Caribbean country, the United States has been helping Haiti rebuild its school system. The United States has trained 800 principals and teachers since January on how to implement new curricula for Haitian Creole and French; distributed 30,000 reading books and workbooks; and built more than 600 semi-permanent furnished classrooms, according to the State Department.

On this trip, Duncan will announce new U.S. aid through the U.S. Agency for International Development. Two officials from USAID, Mark Feierstein and Christie Vilsack, are also traveling with Duncan in Haiti.

Lyndsey Layton has been covering national education since 2011, writing about everything from parent trigger laws to poverty’s impact on education to the shifting politics of school reform.
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