Arne Duncan’s Dismal Record

Here is Frederick M. Hess writing at National Review:

On Friday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced he would be stepping down after nearly seven years on the job. This makes it a good moment to assess Duncan’s legacy, especially since his tenure has been shrouded by more than its fair share of puffery and overheated PR. This was predictable when it came to the usual Obama cheerleaders (Tom Friedman wanted Duncan to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state). But it also showed up at times as generous, even fawning, laurels tossed by the likes of David Brooks, Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich, and Lamar Alexander.

It’s easy to see why so many nice things have been said. Duncan is a likable man who drips with passion and sincerity. Moreover, when Duncan and President Obama came to power, education enjoyed a long tradition of bipartisan support — and the nation’s “school reform” coalition was a model of bipartisan comity. And Duncan stood up for charter schools, challenged the nation’s education schools, and called for reforms to teacher tenure and pay. He deserves credit for this. But the bad far outweighed the good. This was not due to any malice on Duncan’s part, but mostly because Duncan — the former Chicago schools chief — approached the U.S. Department of Education as if it were the nation’s school board and he had been appointed the nation’s superintendent. He was dismissive of Congress, impatient with recalcitrant states, and contemptuous of those worried about federal authority run amok.

The result: Duncan simultaneously exploited and fractured the bipartisan goodwill that had greeted him in 2009, as he launched a war on for-profit colleges, manufactured hysteria over a supposed wave of campus rape, and pushed for a massive expansion of the federal role in everything from pre-K to school discipline.

It’s worth reviewing a few of the particulars.

Read more: National Review

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