by David Safier
By way of background, Obama's education guy, Arne Duncan, was the head of the troubled Chicago schools and "fixed" some of its problems, using "fixes" that didn't actually fix anything. He's a believer in the idea that an aggressive school leader can defy the odds, even in the face of his own failures, which, so far as I know, he doesn't acknowledge.
Duncan apparently was a big supporter of Michelle Rhee, the "education reform" superintendent of DC schools who was credited with raised student scores — until it started to look like it was cheating, not student achievement, that boosted the scores. At the same time serious questions were being raised about the validity of the DC scores, Duncan awarded Race to the Top funding to DC and praised Rhee's work as "absolutely extraordinary." This was in the days before the DC mayoral primary where the current mayor and Rhee supporter Adrian Fenty was looking vulnerable. He eventually lost the primary.
The Washington Post's Bill Turque reported, "if any doubt remained about where the Obama Administration's sympathies are in the District primary, they were eliminated at a morning photo op that preceded the official RTTT announcement." Duncan's announcement of the grant on the eve of the election had "the unmistakable feel of a Fenty campaign stop," as Duncan joined the embattled mayor and his controversial chancellor in a walk with children wearing Fenty campaign stickers. Asked if he was taking sides in the Democratic primary, Duncan said of Fenty, "I'm a big fan."
When the new mayor, Vincent Gray, took over, Duncan urged him to keep Rhee on as chancellor, but Gray wisely let her go.
Duncan is one of the weakest links in the Obama administration, actively promoting the conservative "education reform" agenda. His support of Rhee, who was already looking toxic at the time, is just one more indication of his bad personal and educational judgement.