The Associated Press is reporting that Obama will name CEO of the Chicago Public Schools Arne Duncan as his choice for Secretary of Education on Tuesday morning:
Duncan has run the country’s third-biggest school district for the past seven years. He has focused on improving struggling schools, closing those that fail. Obama highlighted this work by choosing for the announcement a turnaround story for Duncan — Dodge Renaissance Academy, a school Duncan closed and then reopened.
Duncan is a 1987 graduate of Harvard, magna cum laude, who played professional basketball in Australia for four years before returning to the United States to direct the Ariel Education Initiative, which focused on increasing educational opportunities for inner-city youth. Apparently, Duncan is popular with both the pro-No Child Left Behind faction and the teachers’ unions.
Well, I’m a little disappointed. I was hoping, in spite of indications to the contrary, that Obama would appoint someone whose major focus was reforming higher education. I did find this quote from Duncan on the Huffington Post, in which he mentions student loans:
“Oh, there are lots of challenges and, obviously, huge opportunities,” Duncan said. “I think there’s a huge amount of work that has to go on on the early childhood side. There’s a huge amount you’ve got to do in the K to 12 sector. And higher ed, particularly the student loans, presents some huge, huge challenges.”
Not exactly a call to arms, and he could easily be talking about access to loans during the credit crunch rather than more radical reforms decreasing the necessity of huge debt loads for college students, but I will hold out hope until I’m proven wrong. More as this one develops.
Amid speculation that Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson are on Obama’s shortlist for Secretary of State, news about who will be the next Secretary of Education has taken a back seat. Still, a few updates:
First, Jim Hunt, former North Carolina governor declared last week that he is out of the running. From Hunt, who has worked on education issues across the board from early childhood to the college level:
“I just spent several days with the top Obama people,” Hunt said. “Many encouraged me to do it. I told them I would not go to Washington.”
Additionally, Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist Clarence Page showed skepticism about the Colin Powell speculation:
As for Gen. Colin Powell, who served as President Bush’s first secretary of state, Page said the speculation of Powell being appointed secretary of education was “wishful thinking,” even though he thinks Powell would do a great job.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Presidents tend to pick experts in primary and/or secondary ed. for their Secretary of Education. However, the ever-rising cost of tuition combined with the current economic downturn is rapidly escalating into a crisis in college accessibility and affordability. Furthermore, as Steven Teles of the Reality-Based Community blog points out:
…[M]uch of what the Department of Education actually does concerns higher education. The federal government’s programs in higher education are incredibly complex, overlapping, contradictory, badly run, and politically embedded. Fixing them will require a Secretary with an intimate knowledge of their workings.
So far, the federal government has seemed more concerned with shoring up access to loans than reducing students’ need for them. Obama’s Secretary of Education should be someone willing to use his or her position as a bully pulpit to stop colleges from raising tuition and to press Congress to find better ways to fund education than simply giving students more loans that they can’t really afford. Read more…
An author on Gather.com has posted one of the best articles I’ve seen outlining the student loan problem and possible solutions. On the college education Catch-22:
That’s the dilemma that faces most kids who are graduating from high school these days. Like the parents that work to avoid [pay for]* daycare, or the kid who works to pay off the car he uses to get to his job, high school graduates are confronted with the need to go to college in order to get a job to pay for the college they attended.
*Correction mine. Read more…
An article on Yahoo! news is reporting on Obama’s possible cabinet picks, including that for Secretary of Education. I have already mentioned a few of these names, but there were a few new ones as well, including Colin Powell and Inez Tenebaum, former South Carolina schools superintendant. Powell has actually been mentioned before for this position, but he says he hasn’t been approached, and it seemed so unlikely to me that I didn’t blog on it. But his name keeps popping up so I decided I’d better at least mention the possibility. Stay tuned.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has an excellent article about Barack Obama’s potential choices for the next Secretary of Education. His choice will be important for student loan activists because the Sec. of Education advises the President on education policy and is in charge of overseeing federal education funding. Read more…