Obama’s pick for Education secretary garners widespread praise

President-elect Barack Obama nominated Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan as Education secretary on Tuesday, picking an experienced executive who closed failing schools, embraced charter schools and negotiated a pay-for-performance program with teachers unions.

"For years we've talked our education problems to death in Washington, but we failed to act, stuck in the same tired debates that have stymied our progress, all along failing to acknowledge that both sides have good ideas and good intentions," Obama said.

Duncan has served as chief executive of Chicago public schools since 2001. Obama praised his embrace of diverse methods for improving education. Duncan is "not beholden to one ideology" but shares with the president-elect a "deep pragmatism in terms of how we go about" improving education, Obama said.

In Chicago, Duncan closed a failing school and reopened it as an academy where students learned from teachers pursuing degrees in higher education. He supported master teacher certification, backed public charter schools and linked teacher pay to school performance. Duncan has called education "the civil rights issue of our generation."

The choice pleased teachers unions and education reformers. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, lauded Duncan's collaboration with Chicago's teacher unions. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who has championed reform and tough accountability standards, called Duncan "a visionary leader and fellow reformer who cares deeply about students."

House Education and Labor Chairman George Miller said Duncan is "an experienced and accomplished leader who is open to the new, bold and innovative ideas needed to truly improve our schools." A spokeswoman for Education and Labor ranking member Howard (Buck) McKeon said Duncan "has earned a reputation as a reformer who's not afraid to shake up the status quo in order to improve student achievement, and his appointment is a welcome sign."

Congress has yet to tackle a reauthorization of President Bush's No Child Left Behind legislation, and advocates and detractors of the bill say the 111th Congress needs to make changes to it. So far, lawmakers have been unable to agree on the best way to hold students and teachers accountable for results in the classroom. Unions have balked over proposed merit pay for teachers.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.