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Obama Picks Chicago's Schools Chief For Cabinet

Doesn't it tell us something that the Business Roundtable calls Duncan "the sweet choice"?

NOW, more than ever, we need to subscribe to Substance to understand the woeful significance of this corporate crony choice.

Here is an August editorial on privatization. Articles detail the facts and figures.


Editorial: Duncan's agenda and Paul Bremer's

Substance Editorial Staff


Picture Paul Bremer, the erstwhile “viceroy” of Baghdad, only without the boots. You now have Arne Duncan and his troupe of zealots privatizing everything in sight at the Chicago Board of Education and in the “Office of New Schools.” Of course, just as Bremer would have been nothing without George W. Bush and the crazies in the Washington Think Tanks that write the privatization scripts for the world, so Duncan would just be another washed up former professional ball player if Mayor Daley and his corporate buddies weren’t backing his massive privatization plans.

For the past six years, we’ve watched while Chicago Schools CEO Arne Duncan lied repeatedly to the public about how and why he was closing dozens of public schools. Duncan was not trying to improve public schools in Chicago for all children, but was in command of a ruthless privatization plan that is designed to undermine traditional notions of public education for urban children and replace them with a crackpot version of “market choice” that exists only for the wealthy and the powerful.

The key to Duncan’s ability to get away with the Big Lie, however, is not Duncan’s own eloquence, but the face that he has the backing of Chicago’s ruling class. From the CEOs of the city’s largest corporations (organized into the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club) to the editorial boards of the two power daily newspapers, Duncan’s lies are amplified every day, and except for the pages of this newspaper and a few other places, unchallenged in the public arena where democratic debate is supposed to take place.

After we reviewed the school closings in Chicago since 2001, when Mayor Daley appointed Duncan the second “Chief Executive Officer” in CPS history, the shocking details began to become clear. Not only were poor black children being forced out of their homes (public housing reform, it was called), but they were also being deprived over and over of access to public schools.

Comparing Duncan’s other work with massive privatizers like Paul Bremer (who headed up the Provisional Coalition Authority in Baghdad from 2003 to 2004), any clear-eyed reader can see the same pattern. These guys are not in the business of improving public school, but of stripping the assets from public services and turning unionized public servants into non-union public slaves.

For five years, we have watched thousands of people appear before the corporate stooges who constitute the Chicago Board of Education, trying to talk about what would be best for public schools. Every argument has been eloquent.

But the arguments don’t really matter, because Arne Duncan and the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education are not in the education business, they are in the privatization and charter school business. Once the public understand that, at least people can stop wasting their time talking about what’s best for the education of Chicago’s poorest children. Duncan couldn’t care less about that as long as his crimes — and they are crimes that flow from these lies — don’t make the TV news or interfere with the agenda of his mentor Richard M. Daley.


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By Anne E. Kornblut and Philip Rucker
Washington Post


President-elect Barack Obama will nominate Chicago schools executive Arne Duncan as his education secretary at an event in the city today, transition aides said, and is expected to tap Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) later this week to serve as secretary of the interior, all but finalizing his selections for major Cabinet posts.

Obama plans to introduce Duncan this morning at Dodge Renaissance Academy, a Chicago elementary school that the two visited together in 2005.

Duncan, 44, has been chief executive of the Chicago public schools since 2001, steering the nation's third-largest school district, which has more than 400,000 students. Duncan was raised in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, not far from Obama's home, and is a longtime friend and basketball partner of the president-elect. He graduated from Harvard University, where he was co-captain of the basketball team, and he played professional basketball in Australia from 1987 to 1991. He returned to Chicago to direct the Ariel Education Initiative, which creates educational opportunities for youths on the South Side.

In 1998, Duncan joined the Chicago public school system, where he served as deputy chief of staff. Three years later, Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed Duncan chief executive.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who visited a Chicago elementary school last week to highlight Duncan's pay-for-performance program, showered praise on the executive in an interview with The Washington Post last week. Spellings called him "a really good school leader."

"I do think he's a reform-oriented school leader who has been a supporter of No Child Left Behind and accountability concepts and teacher quality," she said. "He's a kindred spirit."

Dodge Renaissance Academy was a failing school on Chicago's West Side that the city shuttered in 2002. Duncan reopened the school as an academy where candidates for advanced degrees in education work in the classrooms. Duncan and Obama visited the school three years ago and hailed it as a successful model for teacher residency programs that could be replicated in the toughest schools nationwide.

Although Obama has not detailed how he will try to fix the nation's struggling schools, he has promised to recruit an "army of new teachers," create better tests and give public schools more funding. The president-elect has not taken sides in a debate between reform advocates and powerful teachers unions, and choosing Duncan seems to be a consensus move likely to appeal to both.

Duncan is embraced by the teachers unions, who have been concerned about high-stakes testing and worry about merit pay being tied to test scores, as well as reformers, who favor charter schools and tougher standards.

Duncan partnered with the Chicago Teachers Union to develop a performance-pay plan for the city's teachers, while also supporting charter schools. Democrats for Education Reform wrote in a policy paper that Duncan "has credibility with various factions in the education policy debate and would allow President Obama to avoid publicly choosing sides in that debate."

The selection of Salazar is expected to be popular among environmental advocates but, as with Obama's earlier Cabinet choices, would set off a political scramble: Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) would appoint a replacement to complete Salazar's term through 2010, when a potentially tough fight would follow. And the move would put a freshman, Rep. Mark Udall, who won the other Senate seat last month, in position as the state's senior senator. Salazar's brother, John, serves in the House and could be among those considered for the appointment to succeed him in the Senate.

Ken Salazar, who has pitched himself as a moderate throughout his political career, was elected to the Senate in 2004 after serving six years as Colorado's attorney general. His departure for the Cabinet would leave only two Hispanics in the Senate, one of whom, Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), is retiring at the end of the next Congress.

Yesterday afternoon, Obama formally rolled out the members of his climate change and energy team. Obama, vowing to address global warming and alternative energy sources, named Nobel laureate physicist Steven Chu as his energy secretary, Lisa P. Jackson as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Nancy Sutley as chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, and Carol M. Browner as assistant to the president for energy and climate change, a new post.

At a news conference in Chicago, Obama said that Chu "values science." Last week, before making the choice, the president-elect met with former vice president Al Gore to discuss climate change, part of a return-to-science approach that Obama promised during the campaign.

Appearing in Chicago yesterday, Obama described his team as uniquely qualified to confront the challenges of global warming. He said past promises to seek renewable energy sources, long unfulfilled, must be met.

"This time has to be different. This time we cannot fail, nor can we be lulled into complacency just because the price at the pump has gone down, for now, from $4 per gallon," Obama said, acknowledging one of the greatest challenges -- falling gasoline prices -- to his hope of giving renewable energy a sense of urgency. He may also, his aides admit, have difficulty overhauling the nation's approach to energy in the midst of an economic crisis that has frozen new investments and wiped out funding for research and development.

But Obama promised a "new energy economy," starting with his economic recovery program, which he said would not only protect the environment but also create jobs, make businesses more efficient and improve national security.

Earlier yesterday, Obama convened his proposed national security team, including James L. Jones as national security adviser, Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and Janet Napolitano as secretary of homeland security, in Chicago.

Staff writers Amit R. Paley and Maria Glod contributed to this report.

Chicago Schools Chief Is Obama’s Education Pick

By Sam Dillon, New York Times


Arne Duncan, the Chicago schools superintendent known for taking tough steps to improve schools while maintaining respectful relations with teachers and their unions, is President-elect Barack Obama’s choice as secretary of education, Democratic officials said Monday.

Mr. Duncan, a 44-year-old Harvard graduate, has raised achievement in the nation’s third-largest school district and often faced the ticklish challenge of shuttering failing schools and replacing ineffective teachers, usually with improved results.

He represents a compromise choice in the debate that has divided Democrats in recent months over the proper course for public-school policy after the Bush years.

In June, rival nationwide groups of educators circulated competing educational manifestos, with one group espousing a get-tough policy based on pushing teachers and administrators harder to raise achievement, and another arguing that schools alone could not close the racial achievement gap and urging new investments in school-based health clinics and other social programs to help poor students learn.

Mr. Duncan was the only big-city superintendent to sign both manifestos.

He argued that the nation’s schools needed to be held accountable for student progress, but also needed major new investments, new talent and new teacher-training efforts.

In straddling the two camps, Mr. Duncan seemed to reflect Mr. Obama’s own impatience with what he has called “tired educational debates.”

In his last major educational speech of the campaign, Mr. Obama said: “It’s been Democrat versus Republican, vouchers versus the status quo, more money versus more reform. There’s partisanship and there’s bickering, but no understanding that both sides have good ideas.”

The rival educational camps swamped the Obama transition in recent weeks with recommendations for the post. The National Education Association, the largest teachers’ union, pressed for several current and former governors who had made schools a priority in their states.

Many former members of Teach for America, the program that sends elite-college graduates to teach in low-income schools, weighed in on behalf of Joel I. Klein, the New York City schools chancellor, and Michelle Rhee, the Washington schools chancellor, both of whom have clashed with the teachers’ unions.

“Obama found the sweet spot with Arne Duncan,” said Susan Traiman, director of educational policy at the Business Roundtable. “Both camps will be O.K. with the pick!”

Mr. Duncan’s acquaintance with Mr. Obama began on the basketball court nearly two decades ago but has flowered since he became the chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools in 2001, and Mr. Obama has used him as a frequent sounding board in discussions of education policy.

The two men have visited a number of Chicago schools together. In October 2005, they visited the Dodge Renaissance Academy, a once-failing elementary school that Mr. Duncan closed and reopened, with a new staff, as a working public school and a teacher training academy.

During the visit, Mr. Obama sat down with school staff members in the library for more than an hour and questioned them at length about arcane instructional issues, Mr. Duncan said in an interview.

“I’ve taken lots of political leaders on school visits, and nobody spends the amount of time, asks the depth of questions, or is more engaged and curious than Barack,” Mr. Duncan said in an August interview.

The Obama transition team has scheduled a news conference for Tuesday at the Dodge Renaissance school.

Mr. Duncan’s background includes playing professional basketball in Australia and intermittently tutoring urban youth, but no formal teaching experience. He helped draft Mr. Obama’s extensive education platform, which called for recruiting thousands of new teachers, encouraging local school districts to adopt performance-based teacher pay initiatives, recruiting and training effective principals, and placing new emphasis on science and mathematics education.

The platform also calls for making major federal investments in early childhood education, which Mr. Obama believes is a more effective use of educational dollars than spending them on remedial programs later.

Mr. Duncan has been working for several years to expand the early childhood opportunities in the Chicago Public Schools, increasing enrollment opportunities for 3- and 4-year-olds by 1,000 places or more each year. Mr. Duncan has worked closely in that effort with Barbara T. Bowman, the Chicago Public Schools’ chief officer for early childhood education, who is the mother of Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett.

Allan R. Odden, a professor of education at the University of Wisconsin, heads a project that is studying how school districts recruit, assign and train their principals and teachers. He said Chicago had made considerable progress under Mr. Duncan.

“He’s gotten the job done in Chicago,” Dr. Odden said. “There’s more to be done, but he’s done a great job of reaching out and recruiting and improving the talent of both teachers and principals.”

During Mr. Duncan’s tenure, the Chicago schools, which in the 1970s and 1980s experienced nine teachers’ strikes in 17 years, has had labor stability, and last week, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, praised Mr. Duncan.

As secretary of education, one of Mr. Duncan’s major challenges will be to rebuild the bipartisan consensus that helped President Bush win passage of his No Child Left Behind law in 2001.

An effort to rewrite the law, the most important statement of federal policy toward public schools, collapsed last year in the face of opposition from conservative Republicans angered over the law’s intrusion onto states’ educational prerogatives and Democrats upset with the law’s emphasis on standardized testing.

Mr. Obama has called for a thorough rewrite, but has pledged to defend the accountability provisions in the law that require schools to improve.

Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, said last week that his group would be delighted to see Mr. Klein or Ms. Rhee appointed, but had sent to the transition team a memorandum recommending Mr. Duncan.

“He is the kind of guy who can work with all sorts of people with different viewpoints, and we like his work in Chicago with charter schools,” Mr. Williams said.

Representative George Miller, the California Democrat who as the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee will lead any reauthorization effort, called Mr. Duncan “a good choice for school reform and our schoolchildren.”

“He is an experienced and accomplished leader who is open to new ideas for improving our schools,” Mr. Miller said.

— Anne E. Kornblut & Philip Rucker and Sam Dillon & Substance
Washington Post, New York Times & Substance
2008-12-16


INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES


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