Monday, September 06, 2010

A Celebratory Road Trip for Education Secretary

What a brilliant idea for Duncan to barnstorm the country by bus!

A chartered bus adorned with slogans about "Hope" and "Dreams" was rumbling through this part of the country this week, carrying a public servant who made regular stops to greet mayors and local television cameras.

No, Education Secretary Arne Duncan is not a candidate for office. But yes, his bus tour through Maine, New Hampshire and other Northeast states had all the trappings of a political campaign.

Mr. Duncan's tour, coinciding with back-to-school season, was billed as a way to honor teachers. But the road trip also felt like a victory lap after last week's announcement that nine states and the District of Columbia had won the Race to the Top, the Obama administration's most prized education initiative.

The competition was the rarest of rarities: a government grant program that became a household phrase, and brought arcane education policy onto morning television shows.

By the Education Department's count, the competition for $4.3 billion in federal funds at a time of state budget crises prodded 34 states to change laws or policies to align themselves with the administration's goals for change.

"We're getting more change in 18 months in education than in the previous decade," said Mr. Duncan, as he snacked on cashew trail mix between stops.

His bus was a big blue affair, with swiveling leather seats and even a shower. The two-day journey started Monday with a news conference in Albany with Gov. David A. Paterson and ended at a middle school in Maine.

And I have to strongly disagree with Peter Meyer here – Duncan has visited lots of great charter schools and met with countless reformers (that's where his heart is, of course), so he's being VERY smart to make sure to meet with lots of union folks as well:

Heads spin in Albany
By Peter Meyer

Arne Duncan landed in New York's state capital [this week] but it wasn't to boost the spirits of the city's "heroic" education reformers or stop by the state's first all-girls charter high school (which was celebrating its opening). Nope. It was to cheer up the Empire State's beleaguered New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), which has spent billions lobbying against education reform over the years.


A Celebratory Road Trip for Education Secretary

Published: September 1, 2010

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