Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will up in the Nutmeg State this week talking about the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—and hanging out with Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, who has a top spot on the Senate education committee. (He actually passed up a chance to become chairman earlier this year.)
Education—and ESEA, in particular—is a hot-button issue for Connecticut. This is, after all, the state that filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the current version of the ESEA, known as the No Child Left Behind Act.
Of course, Duncan has brought members of Congress along to his ESEA listening tour before. But this trip had a little bit more of 2010-midterm-election vibe to it. Dodd, a Democrat who has been closely associated with education issues for much of his decades-long Senate career, is facing an uphill re-election battle, and he probably wants voters in Connecticut to know he’s working to address their problems with ESEA and has the ear of the Obama administration.
And, interestingly, the press release from the U.S. Department of Education said, “Dodd Brings U.S. Secretary of Education to Connecticut"—as if Duncan wouldn’t have come to Connecticut on his own devices. (I’m betting he would have).
UPDATE: Apparently, the trip has been canceled, both for Dodd and Duncan, because of a vote on the health care reform legislation. Can Duncan only “listen and learn” if a vulnerable senator is with him? I’m sure he can, since he’s gone to plenty of other states without sharing the stage with an endangered Democrat. The cancellation seems to underscore that the nature of this particular trip is at least partly political.