Tuesday, July 14, 2020
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Duncan will resign as education secretary

The White House has confirmed that Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education, will resign in December, the New York Times reports.

Arne Duncan, at his confirmation hearing in January 2009, gets a bottle of water from his son Ryan.
(Jonathan Ernst / Getty Images)

The original Department of Education was created in 1867 to collect information on schools and teaching that would help states establish effective school systems. Today it has the smallest staff of the 15 Cabinet agencies, and the federal role in education has expanded dramatically.

Mr Duncan was in President Barack Obama’s first full cabinet and is one of his longest-serving cabinet members. The education department’s access to billions of dollars to dole out as part of the economic recovery package, which Mr Duncan largely used for the controversial Race to the Top federal grant competition, made him one of the most powerful—and controversial—education secretaries in US history.

But, Mr Duncan said in a letter obtained by The Chronicle of Higher Education, that he was going to move back to Chicago to live with his family: “Being apart from my family has become too much of a strain, and it is time for me to step aside and give a new leader a chance. … I haven’t talked with anyone about what I’ll do next, and probably won’t for a little while.”

Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee and chair of the Senate‚Äôs education committee, said Mr Duncan was one of Mr Obama’s best appointments: “When we disagree, it is usually because he believes the path to effective teaching, higher standards, and real accountability is through Washington, D.C., and I believe it should be in the hands of states, communities, parents, and classroom teachers,” The Chronicle quoted him as saying in a written statement.

The president said he would nominate John B King Jr, the deputy education secretary and a former commissioner of education in New York State, to replace Mr Duncan, although some news sources speculated Mr King would have much less power to control federal money than Mr Duncan did as an “acting” secretary. If Mr Obama chooses this route, the Senate won’t have to approve Mr King’s new role.

The Network for Public Education, in a press release, assigned an “F” to Mr King’s selection.

Regarding the appointment of King, The Executive Director of the Network for Public Education Fund and former New York State principal, Carol Burris, observed, “John King’s tenure in New York State was a disaster and he alienated teachers, parents, and principals. He was the first Commissioner of Education in New York to receive a vote of ‘no confidence’ by the New York State Teachers Union, and referred to parents as ‘a special interest group.’ Not only was his implementation of the Common Core standards rushed and chaotic, but the horrific state exams that were given during his tenure resulted in over 200,000 students opting out of the exam last spring. It is difficult to imagine a worse choice to run the US Department of Education.”

Valerie Strauss wrote on her “Answer Sheet” blog for the Washington Post, “If you thought Arne Duncan was controversial, meet his successor.”

So it seems Mr King has a reputation from New York that precedes him in his new role at the top of the US Department of Education. Time will tell.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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