Duncan Poised to Be Most Powerful Ed Sec Ever

Tight with prez, Duncan holds keys to $5B in stimulus funds
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Aug 10, 2009 7:03 AM CDT
President Barack Obama, right, gestures as he is introduced by student Matthew Austin, left, as Education Secretary Arne Duncan applauds at center, July 24, 2009.   (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – Tight with President Obama and with $5 billion at his disposal, Arne Duncan may become the strongest education secretary in history, writes Nia-Malika Henderson for Politico. “Never ever have they had $5 billion to decide what to do in the education system,” says an education advocate. And it’s up to Duncan—a big believer in merit pay for teachers, data systems to track performance, and charter schools to try new strategies—to choose how to dispense that cash to states.

Obama and Duncan have recently taken action with “Race to the Top” funding, which, at $4.35 billion, is “one of the largest single investments in education reform in American history,” Henderson writes. Duncan was considered a “split-the-difference choice,” winning praise from both unions and “get-tough-on teacher reformers.” But some aren’t pleased with Obama and Duncan's direction, suggesting they're too focused on charter schools or lack a “comprehensive” reform plan.