During his tenure as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has had a number of fairly substantive policy accomplishments. In particular, the Obama administration’s success at working to implement Race to the Top and Common Core are to his credit.
While Duncan, like all U.S. secretaries of education, is controversial among some groups, part of his success in implementing the Obama administration’s education platform may have something to do with his background administering an real school district. As chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools from 2001 to 2009 he improved test scores, reorganized failing schools, and enthusiastically promoted charter schools as a way to try to improve education achievement.
But has he reached the end of his potential accomplishments at the Department of Education?
Perhaps. So argues Michele McNeil in a a piece in Education Week:
Duncan faces an increasingly rocky education policy landscape and wavering support for his aggressive K-12 agenda—at a time when his stack of bargaining chips is dwindling.
Compared to his assets in President Barack Obama’s first term, Mr. Duncan has few sweeteners left to use as leverage. That’s likely to leave him even more dependent on sanctions and persuasion in the administration’s final three years.
The problem, basically, is that Duncan doesn’t have any money left. As the article explains,
He’s spent nearly $100 billion in economic-stimulus money approved by Congress in 2009 and used his own authority to hand out No Child Left Behind Act waivers to nearly every state.
But Congress seems more dysfunctional than ever, and less and less likely to give the Obama administration what it wants. After the 2014 midterm elections, when the administration will enter its twilight, Mr. Duncan’s clout will diminish even more.
Since Congress is unlikely to provide the Department with any new money, it’s going to get a lot more difficult to expect major education improvement from states and school districts.