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Daily Dish: Education Secretary Arne Duncan Announces Resignation, John King Named as Replacement

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October 05, 2015 04:41 pm

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In a surprising turn of events that came one week after House Speaker John Boehner announced his resignation, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced on Friday that he will be stepping down at the end of December. Duncan has served a seven-year term “marked by a willingness to plunge head-on into the heated debate about the government’s role in education,” according to the Associated Press.

Duncan’s work balanced between two groups when it came to helping children from low-income families: those who believe in competition, accountability, and market forces, and those who vie for heavier investment and better distribution of dollars, says The Washington Post. This meant an expansion of charter schools, promoting Common Core State Standards, and increasing preschool enrollment for low-income students, and investing in medical care, mentoring and family services. As a result of pushing so aggressively, The Post states, legislation is pending in Congress to strip the education secretary’s authority and shift power back to the states from the federal government.

With Duncan’s resignation, a key policy issue is on everyone’s mind is what does this mean for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), now known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). This question was circulating after the announcement of Boehner’s resignation, and in a special edition of Federal Flash on Duncan’s departure, Alliance staff notes that this turn of events is “one more sign that ESEA has very little chance of passing anytime soon.”

“Secretary Duncan and his team at the Department of Education have spent countless hours working on the reauthorization of ESEA and if he thought it actually might happen, chances are he would stay in DC to see it through,” says Jessica Cardichon, Senior Director of Policy & Advocacy at the Alliance. “Remember, this is a Secretary who believes in the power of the federal government to support teachers and students and guide state policy… if he felt he could write regulations to implement the new statute and cement in some of his policy priorities, he would do so.” Watch the full episode of the Federal Flash:

In an article on edSurge, Alliance staff member Tom Murray shared his input on Secretary Duncan’s work:  “What I respect most about Secretary Duncan is the amount of time he spent with students and teachers in schools; virtually every week. He has been a champion for ALL students, particularly those that are traditionally underserved, as well as an advocate to accelerate learning through technology.”

President Obama has appointed Dr. John King, currently serving as the delegated Deputy Secretary of Education, to replace Duncan as acting Secretary for the remainder of the Administration. Alliance President Bob Wise commented on Dr. King’s appointment as it relates to federal education policy and specifically ESEA, saying: “King just may be at the right place at the right time when it comes to the holy grail of federal education policy — the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. I’m dubious about the prospects for Congress to pass a final bill, but if it does, King will be the person with the pen to begin issuing regulations based on whatever authority Congress leaves to the executive branch under the new law. And for those, like me, still concerned about the lack of accountability in the current bills to require addressing needs of traditionally underserved students, no better advocate than John King can be presenting the administration’s position to the congressional conference committee.”

Arne Duncan, in an email to the U.S. Department of Education staff, gave his resounding approval of his replacement, Dr. King. “What gives me peace with this decision, and I hope comes as a reassurance to everyone here, is the extraordinary talent of John and our leadership team. John comes to this role with a record of exceptional accomplishment as a lifelong educator – a teacher, a school leader, and a leader of school systems, most recently as Commissioner of Education in New York State before he joined our team. Over the years that I have known him, and especially in the months we have worked together here, I’ve come to recognize John as one of the most passionate, courageous, clear-headed leaders in our field. His talent is such that he will become one of the youngest Cabinet members in American history.” Read the full letter: An Inspiring New Leader for Our Extraordinary Team.

Dr. King’s personal commitment to education that stems from a past where teachers and his education shaped his life, having lost both of his parents by the age of 13. In a heartfelt blog on the Huffington Post, Dr. King shares his personal story of loss and rebuilding his life with the help of educators who cared for him. As Arne Duncan says, it is worth the read: Education: The Difference Between Hope And Despair.

When it comes to policy priorities, John King, Arne Duncan, and President Obama all are very aligned, as is highlighted in the Federal Flash. When Dr. King was Commissioner of Education in New York State, he led reforms at the state level that were priorities for this administration – charter schools, teacher evaluation, and other. When he left New York, it didn’t take long for the Administration to bring him on board. Dr. King is a lifeline educator and shares the personal commitment to education that is characteristic of Secretary Duncan.

Alliance President Bob Wise notes that these similarities are no coincidence. “President Obama doubled down on his commitment to the nation’s underserved students by selecting Dr. John King to succeed Arne Duncan as Acting Secretary of Education,” advises Wise. “Clearly, this administration has no plans of backing away over the next 15 months from the aggressive education reform agenda it began pursuing six years ago.”

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