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Brooks Nominates Duncan for Secretary

By David J. Hoff — December 05, 2008 1 min read
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From guest blogger David J. Hoff:

David Brooks writes today about the fight between the self-proclaimed “reformers” against their rivals in the teachers’ unions and the rest of education establishment. After fighting over policy priorities during the presidential campaign, the two sides are now trying to influence President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to be secretary of education.

Reformers want an aggressive change agent (think Joel I. Klein of New York City or Michelle Rhee of D.C.). The Washington Post editorial board agrees with them.

Unions and others are pushing for someone whose work centers around improving the current system from within (one of their allies—Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond—is leading the policy review for the transition). Brooks also says Obama could pick a governor and make Darling-Hammond the deputy secretary—something he says “might be the biggest setback for reform” because Darling-Hammond would be in charge of policy.

The solution, Brooks suggests, is to pick Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan. His accomplishments match those of Klein and Rhee, but his policies would be acceptable with their detractors.

It all makes sense. I’ve written something like that myself. See here and here.

But I’m beginning to wonder if Duncan will be the choice. He has been the front runner for the job. But it’s a month after the election, and there’s no indication that he’ll get the job. By comparison, Tom Daschle was considered a natural pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. His selection has been widely reported for two weeks and he’s doing high-profile events on behalf of the transition.

If Arne Duncan were the choice to be education secretary, he’d be doing something other than having coffee with Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and planning events related to his current job.

Duncan still may be Obama’s pick for education secretary. But I’m prepared to be surprised.


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