I have many colleagues who insist that deep down, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is a real education reformer, and is a reflection of an administration that is reform-minded on critical education issues. Because he hired this or that person, because he talks about charter schools, and because he told the press he thought that children currently in the DC scholarship program should be allowed to finish even if it is discontinued. There are some who believe he’s “one of us.”
The Denver Post today, like Toto in The Wizard of Oz, pulls back the curtain on the image of Duncan as reformer to reveal some hard truths behind the talking points. Like many of us, they wanted to know why a Congressionally mandated report on the DC voucher program – providing evidence of success – was released on a Friday, after Congress recessed, and as millions of Americans were leaving for their spring breaks. Duncan denied knowing about the findings, though senior department officials have had a chance to review them since November. Even if they deliberately kept it from the Secretary, it still begs the question as to why, knowing the Congress was moving to kill it, did he not ask where the study results were? As the Denver Post columnist argues, Duncan discards the program as being too small to care about. He dances around his opposition by advocating that kids already in the program continue — without demanding legislation that would allow that to happen, by the way. Thus my colleagues’ “hopes” that he’ll come around, that reason will prevail. They are so blinded by their dreams for this Administration that they find it impossible to believe its people could oppose something so good.