At the end of the year, Arne Duncan is stepping down as Education Secretary after seven years. According to a letter to staff that was obtained by the AP and confirmed by a White House official, Duncan is going back to Chicago to be with his family. Duncan, 50, has been the longest-serving secretary of education, according to the Washington Post, which just days ago reported on a speech Duncan gave calling on the US to fix education inequality: "Our K-12 system is basically funded at the local level. We are so property-tax-based throughout the nation, in far too many places, the children of wealthy get far more spent on them than the children of the poor. Until we get uncomfortable with that, we’re going to continue to have huge disparities."
In his letter, Duncan calls his decision to retire in December "bittersweet," writing, "It’s with real sadness that have come to recognize that being apart from my family has become too much of a strain, and it is time for me to step aside and give a new leader a chance." That new leader will, at least for a time, be John King Jr., who is currently the deputy secretary. According to the AP, President Obama wants King to be the acting secretary for the rest of Obama's term, but is not planning to nominate King, or anyone else, to be secretary. That will allow the president to avoid "a nomination fight in Congress," the AP notes, though Senate Republicans may resist the "unconventional approach." An official announcement from the White House is expected Friday afternoon. (Read more Arne Duncan stories.)