U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is stepping down, and will be succeeded by former New York state education chief (and charter school founder) John King.
What can we say about Duncan’s legacy on school choice?
Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, applauded Duncan for his support of charter schools.
“His leadership on behalf of the federal Charter Schools Program has enabled the dramatic growth in the number of high quality charter schools, ensuring that hundreds of thousands more students now have access to better schools regardless of their family income or zip code,” she wrote in a statement.
He wasn’t a voucher supporter.
“He’s gone a lot further than a lot of other Democratic education secretaries on supporting educational options, but he didn’t go far enough,” said Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. “The D.C. voucher program was right under his nose, and he didn’t support it.”
He pushed a politically moderate agenda whose full effects won’t be known for some time.
[E]ducation is an issue where Obama really does split the difference between left and right, supporting charter schools that innovate within the public system but not vouchers for private schools, battling teachers unions while defending their collective bargaining rights. But now his school reforms are under attack from the left and right. And unlike his health reforms, which produced a rapid decline in the uninsured rate, or his energy reforms, which generated dramatic increases in solar and wind power, their impact remains unclear as his presidency enters the home stretch.
U.S. graduation rates are at an all-time high, with the biggest improvements for minorities and the poor. Dropout rates are at an all-time low. Test scores are slightly up, with some of the biggest gains in states that embraced the administration’s approach to reform. Sketchy diploma mills are vacuuming up fewer federal dollars. But even Duncan acknowledges that the hopeful signs are not yet proof that reform is working.
“This is the ultimate long-term play,” he said. “A lot of the results won’t be seen for 10 or 15 years. This kind of work, it’s not about tomorrow’s headline.”
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