Leadership Change at US Dept Of Education Provokes Speculation

With longtime Secretary of Education Arne Duncan leaving the Obama Administration, much speculation has centered on the future of that major federal agency, and what direction lies ahead in the current Administration’s final years.

Education Week speculates that the political influence of the agency may be inevitably waning:

Now Duncan is on his way out the door and the Obama administration is about to head into the sunset. And now that Republicans—who haven’t exactly been bowled over by the administration’s competitive-grant strategy—are in control of Congress, the department has basically run out of carrots. (Except for … maybe a secretarial visit? A mention in a speech?)

And there don’t seem to be many sticks left either.

“What’s in their tool box?” asked Terry Holliday, the former Kentucky commissioner of education. After all, he said, the handful of states without waivers don’t seem all that torn up about not having the flexibility.

The waning authority may not have much to do with Duncan’s departure—that’s just the way the end of the second term goes, Holliday said. “In the last year usually power begins diminishing.”

Another article, from the online publication iSchoolGuide, reflects on the controversial tenure of Secretary Duncan, and notes the potentially different tone from his successor:

Many GOP presidential candidates and state lawmakers have also criticized Duncan’s push for the Common Core education standards, calling it a federal overreach. Duncan acknowledged in an interview with the Education Writers Association in April that some of his work became controversial. However, he said he regretted that “education isn’t seen as a national priority.”

Obama said Friday that he would nominate Deputy Education Secretary John B. King Jr. to replace Duncan. King was also the former education commissioner in New York State, according to Motoko Rich and Gardiner Harris of The New York Times.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties