On H1N1: "We're Prepared for the Worst"

Education Secretary Arne Duncan on "Face the Nation," Sept. 6, 2009.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan on "Face the Nation," Sept. 6, 2009.

The CDC released a study last week showing that about one in 13 deaths as a result of the H1N1 virus has been children, and most of them have been of school age. With a new school year just around the corner, mass vaccination won't be available until October.

In an exclusive interview, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation" Sunday, "Once the vaccine becomes available in mid-October we absolutely want the vaccine to be available at schools."

Duncan also responded to reports that 2,000 students at Washington State University are already showing signs of the virus.

"We're prepared for the worst. Yes, you have to be prepared. Again the more the school is a part of the solution, the more the schools become vaccination centers, the more we help solve this thing. That's the right thing for us to be doing."

Duncan also hopes to fix America's school system as the U.S. lags behind when it comes to student achievement, "I honestly think as a country, we've lost our way educationally. We're all focused on the economic crisis. I really believe we have an education crisis in our country."

One priority for the Department of Education is to revamp No Child Left Behind, which Duncan admits was "very prescriptive on the method, very loose on the goal."

He adds, "A number of things need to change. First of all, it's desperately underfunded. ... A big problem with No Child Left Behind is they are very, very tight on how you get to your goals, very loose on what the goals were, nationally. ... That is fundamentally backwards and we want to turn that on its head."

Along with President Obama, Duncan wants to revamp U.S. charter schools by using federal funding to ease limits on charter schools. But a recent Stanford University survey in 15 states found that 37% of charter schools offered worse education than children would have received in traditional schools.

"I've said repeatedly I'm not a fan of charter schools - I'm a fan of good charter schools," Duncan said. "Where they're working, let's do more of them, let's replicate them. There are some extraordinary charter schools around the country.

"Where they're not working, they're second-tier or third-tier, let's be honest about that and let's close them down."