At the end of last night’s debate at Teachers College between presidential education advisers, moderator Susan Fuhrman asked the question everyone loves to talk about: Do you want to be the next U.S. secretary of education? (To watch the whole debate, register here. UPDATE: Watch the exchange in the YouTube video embedded below.)
Both Lisa Graham Keegan of the McCain campaign and Linda Darling-Hammond of the Obama camp ducked the question. But that won’t stop everyone’s tongues from wagging or bloggers’ fingers from flying across their keyboard. Somebody’s going to parse the answers and say that both wanted to say: “I hope it’s me.”
To which, I’d like to add: Stop.
Self-appointed pundits and journalists look through a list of smart, committed, and connected people. Then they make arguments about whose got the inside track. (See examples here and here.) Others raise potential candidates based on one small news events. American Spectator seems to think DC schools’ chancellor Michelle Rhee would be a great education secretary based on the mentions of her at the end of last week’s presidential debate. Rhee isn’t so sure, she told Fast Company.
But none of this considers what the president-elect will need to take into account in selecting his education secretary. The choice won’t be made until after other Cabinet selections have been announced. At that point, the makeup of the Cabinet becomes a balancing act. If there are several governors on board, it makes it tougher for a candidate like Jim Hunt or Mike Huckabee. Too many pals from back home? Obama’s hoops partner Arne Duncan or Keegan might be left out. No African-American women? The transition team might be looking for one. Until we know who the president-elect is and who he has chosen for the four most important Cabinet posts (State, Treasury, Justice, and Defense), we won’t know the type of person he wants to be education secretary.
So, everyone, take a deep breath, and wait a month or so. When the transition team is narrowing in on picking an education secretary, the Campaign K12 team will be reporting the news as it happens. Until then, we’ll be focusing on who wins the presidential election and other races that are relevant to the future of education.