Former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan attributes the struggling U.S. school system to a lack of will from voters to fix things.

"Across the nation we have a long way to go," Dunan said in an interview with TheStreet. "We're not top 10 in anything."

Citizens care about education, but they don't vote on that issue, Duncan said.

"We don't hold any politician - a mayor, a Governor, a Congressman, a Senator, a President -- accountable for increasing access to high quality pre-K, to raising high school graduation rates to making college more accessible and affordable," he noted.

Duncan doesn't blame politicians for these issues, but the voters themselves.

Meanwhile, Duncan said poverty can't be eliminated without proper financial literacy.

"If we're serious about breaking cycles of poverty, if young people get a good education, get a good job and still can't manage their money and they're spending more than they are bringing in, we're not actually breaking those cycles of poverty," he said.

Duncan is author of the new book "How Schools Work."

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