The Corner

Obama’s Ed Chief

Ed-department vet Chester Finn weighs in from his Fordham Foundation in a statement:

Arne Duncan is a terrific pick, and not just because he’s close to the president-elect and speaks Chicago-ese. He’s a proven and committed and inventive education reformer, not tethered to the public-school establishment and its infinite interest groups, nor bedazzled by blandishments and commands from Washington. He’s earned his spurs in a huge and challenging school district, is a force for positive change nationally, has navigated Chicago politics, has stood up to Margaret Spellings, and manages, with all that, to be a thoughtful, affable and likeable guy. If he’s also allowed to pick his own team, education (and the Education Department) will be in good hands during a very challenging time. (If he’s undercut by goofuses, ed school ideologues, and union goons forced upon him by the Office of Presidential Personnel, however, he’ll have to waste far too much time on internal battles as the fledgling Obama administration figures out which side of the Great Democratic Education Schism it is really on.)

Finn does add candidly the added caution that the unions appear to be fans as well.

Mike Petrilli, also from the Fordham Foundation tells The Corner:

This is about as good a pick as conservatives could have hoped for. Arne Duncan is a reformer, a true believer in charter schools, a fan of inner-city Catholic schools, and a skeptic of one-size-fits-all mandates from Washington, DC. While he hasn’t picked as many fights with the teachers unions as some of his peers, he is no slouch when it comes to shaking up the system. The major concern should be whether he will have the stature to corral the big egos on Capitol Hill and to bridge the growing divides within the Democratic Party to forge agreement on education policy. If he can’t, all we can expect to see in the next four years is a lot more federal spending on the nation’s public schools, because all Democrats will rally around that.

And finally, Dan Lips, education expert at the Heritage Foundation, says of Duncan:

The bottom line is that there is reason to be encouraged that, as a local education reformer, Mr. Duncan may recognize the limits of what Washington can do and the need to empower local leaders to drive reform efforts. That said, he is on record favoring a doubling of federal funding for NCLB, which is reason for concern.

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