Splitting the Difference With Duncan

Barack Obama managed to find someone acceptable both to teachers unions and the education "reform" crowd with his selection of Arne Duncan, the ...
by | December 16, 2008
 

Duncan Barack Obama managed to find someone acceptable both to teachers unions and the education "reform" crowd with his selection of Arne Duncan, the Chicago schools chief, as Education Secretary.

There's been a debate brewing this year in Democratic education circles. One side takes a "bigger, bolder" approach, saying that children need many other supports -- in terms of things like health care -- before they can be expected to do well in school.

The other argument says that schools are an issue, too, and there should be firm accountability measures and all the rest that goes along with the past deca de of standardized testing.

Anyway, Andy Rotherham refers back today to a blog posting he put up back in June when the two camps issued their manifesto. He obliquely pointed out back then that Duncan was the only person who signed both manifestos.

One guy signed both of the documents and though he's not a household name is someone who would be a logical and effective pick for an Obama Secretary of Education and someone who can put together a real accountability plus agenda that holds the line on accountability while building a coalition around other supports for children.

It's possible that the unions will drop their resistance to No Child Left Behind and such policies if there are enough sweeteners for them. That's what happened in New York, where the United Federation of Teachers went along with a performance pay plan in large part because they've gotten raises of upwards of 40 percent for their members in recent years. Randi Weingarten, the UFT president who is now president of the national American Federation of Teachers, has been signaling that she's ready to play ball.

Duncan then will be cast in the role of honest broker, trying to bring together factions that have been warring, putting the Democrats' money where their mouths have been regarding education. But if there's no money post-TARP and stimulus and everything else, he's going to have a tough time. And there's going to be plenty of room for argument even if Duncan can find enough money to satisfy states, schools and teachers.

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