My Education Secretary Pick

Obama has picked Arne Duncan of Chicago as Secretary of Education.  Unwilling to send his own kids to schools run by Mr. Duncan, he is never-the-less putting Duncan in charge of the rest of our schools.

My appointment for the Secretary of the Department of Education would have been the head of a liquidation firm.  As a libertarian, I can find fault just about everywhere in Washington, but nothing better illustrates the modern disregard for the Constitution and the 9th and 10th Amendments than the Federal education infrastructure.  My daughter asked me what I would do first if I were President.  I would put blowing up this department first (though its demise would be neck and neck with the Department of Energy).  I would even be willing to do it in a funding-neutral way, such that Federal funds currently allocated to education would still be so allocated, and simply distributed on some kind of per head basis to local districts.  Which, in fact, would actually increase real education funding, eliminating the great Washington leaky bucket as well as the cost of compliance with reams of rules and regulations that is born by local districts.

It is possible to find a few  (though very few, on a percentage basis) anecdotes of public schools that have been turned around  (in fact, I think there are few enough that a movie can and has been made about every one).  There are no examples that I know of a large school district being turned around.   As to this guy Duncan picked by Obama today --  I am willing to believe he had some point successes at individual schools.  But he certainly didn't turn around the whole district  (certainly not to the Obama family's standards, since they refused to send their kids to the schools Duncan ran).  So what hope does he have at a national level?  Answer:  none.  But I am sure he will ask for more money to do it.


  1. eCurmudgeon:

    Personally, I'd pick Charles Murray, if for no other reason than to watch the subsequent heads explode in the Education Establishment...

  2. Craig:

    Why did people keep mentioning Colin Powell for this? What does he know about education?

  3. gadfly:

    I would speculate that Barry had to really resist the urge to appoint Bill Ayres.

  4. Dick Saunders:

    What's interesting about this pick is that Duncan was opposed by Ayers, Obama, and their foundations during the '90s.

    @gadfly There's no need to worry about Ayers and his gang (Darling-Hammond). Obama got all the use out of him that he could, just like Wright and numerous others. The same goes for any political stance he's ever had... campaign financing, NAFTA, gun control, practices at Gitmo, etc. etc. Political expediency is the only constant. Everyone/everything else will get their turn under the bus eventually.

  5. Sameer Parekh:

    DOE is not so bad. It is sort of like an arm of the DoD, what with their nuke research. i would rather that they be rolled into the DOD, but at the end of the day not so bad as the dept of ed.

  6. Michael Miller:

    Duncan is Daley's pick to bring home the bacon for the Chicago public school system.

    Mr. Duncan has in no way turned the city schools around, especially in the gang infested areas on the south and west sides, where students are being shot to death on the way to and from school at record rates. These kids are are in a real war zone, and the CPD is seemingly powerless to stop the violence. Also, absolutely no one sends their kids to the Chicago public schools, if they can afford parochial or private schools. Obama is not alone on that score. The schools here are still a mess and more money in the system will not help these kids.

    Privately, Mr. Duncan will be going to Washington to make sure the real big money floods into Chicago. Publicly, Duncan will talk a very good game, but behind the scenes it will really will be business as usual.

    This is Hope & Change... in the timeless Chicago style.

    Mike Miller
    Chicago, Illinois

  7. Franco:

    The Chicago Public Schools aren't great across the board but they are heads and tails above most major cities. The neighborhood elementary schools can be very good in certain neighborhoods. They have some excellent high schools and middle schools but these are very tough to get into, especially if you're white and your kids are not total geniuses. The competition for these schools is fierce and they are some of the best in the state.

    A path that seems to appear is kids go to public schools for K-5 or so and then switch to private schools when they can't get into a magnet school. All in, Arne Duncan's done a good job with what he has. There's not much you can do with some of the bad schools. The administration there is entrenched, the kids come from very broken homes. Obama lives in Hyde Park and I think most of the good schools are on the North Side. He sends his kids the the U of C Laboratory school, I believe which is right in his back year. If I lived in Hyde Park I'd send my kids there. If I lived on the north side I'd probably use CPS for now until the get older. I think Arne Duncan leaving is bad for Chicago - I doubt they will find as good a person to replace him.

  8. The other coyote:

    I would not blow up the Dept. of Education, although the building does need to go. After HHS, it is the ugliest building in D.C. But it is sitting on some pricey real estate, just south (??? my sense of direction is not so good) of the Air and Space Museum.

    My proposal is to completely dismantle the Dept. of Ed., sell the building, and cut taxes accordingly.

    OT - Next on my chopping block is either EEOC of HHS. EEOC because Title VII was passed in 1964, before I was BORN. I think we're over having segregated facilities, even though Exec. Order 11246 forces me to put "no segregated facilities" into my contracts. I went to a breakfast meeting a while back where the head of our local office was whining that EEOC's budget was only the price of a cup of coffee for every man, woman and child in America. Seriously, this was a bad thing in his book - a mere pittance. A $300-400 million budget, and the best they can come up with is the ERACE initiative (ending racism in employment)? I'm right back at "dude, Title VII was passed in 1964. Turn off the way-back machine."

    HHS mostly because they waste money and have a really ugly building, sitting on prime real estate.

    Agriculture is working its way to the top of the list, too. WIC spends more money on administration than it does on food.

  9. Kelly:

    "I would even be willing to do it in a funding-neutral way, such that Federal funds currently allocated to education would still be so allocated, and simply distributed on some kind of per head basis to local districts."

    Throw it back into the same failed education system, but at a local level? Where is the improvement in that? How about letting parents of school-age children choose where to allocate it? As long as we're dreaming here, make it into a voucher sort of rebate.

  10. Chris:

    I'm sympathetic to the call to get rid of DOE - but if we have to have a DOE, then there are much worse choices than Arne to run it.

    He is a big fan of charter schools and he is a proponent of having education money tied to the student instead of the school.

    Having an advocate of this sort at the top would be a huge boon to promoting school choice.