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U.S. Education chief Arne Duncan: Double teacher salaries

U.S. Secretary EducatiArne Duncan (from left) U.S. Senator Dick Durb(D-IL) Gov. PQuinn CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard Mayor Rahm Emanuel listen

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (from left), U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Gov. Pat Quinn, CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and Mayor Rahm Emanuel listen to a reporter's question during a press conference following a panel discussion to emphasize the importance of education (as part of Duncan's "Back to School" bus tour) at Schurz High School, 3601 N. Milwaukee Ave., Friday, Sept. 9, 2011, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 9, 2011 3:06PM

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Friday that teachers have been “beaten down for too long” and endorsed “doubling’’ their salaries.

“We need to elevate teachers,’’ Duncan told a gathering of officials and educators in the fresco-ceiling library of Carl Schurz High School.

“I think we need to double salaries for teachers. We need to start them at a much higher level.”

Teachers “shouldn’t have to take a vow of poverty,’’ Duncan said. “Great teachers should have the chance to make — pick a number — $130,000, $140,000, $150,000.’’

But if President Obama’s new American Jobs Act is not passed, Duncan said, waves of teachers could be laid off across the land and class sizes could rise.

He said his three-day, six-state bus tour that ended Friday in his hometown of Chicago exposed him to “repugnant’’ stories about the threatened loss of 420 teachers in Cleveland and of elementary art teachers dwindling from 100 to 11 in Milwaukee.

Obama’s plan could save 14,700 educator jobs in Illinois and bring the state more than $1 billion construction and renovation dollars, including $609 million for Chicago Public Schools, said Duncan, who served as Schools CEO here until 2009.

“Class sizes are increasing. We are losing art, music and physical education,’’ Duncan said. “None of that is good for education.’’

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