Duncan/King: So Much Coverage – But Key Details Still Missing

There was no shortage of coverage of the announcement that Arne Duncan is leaving his post as head of the US Department of Education. Here are some highlights (and lowlights):

Here’s most of the coverage that I’ve seen in the last 72 hours:

AP sources: Education Secretary Arne Duncan stepping down after 7 years in Obama administration http://apne.ws/1YUlmNO 

Obama’s new pick for education mirrors Duncan – POLITICO http://ow.ly/SXezK 

Arne Duncan, Education Secretary, to Step Down in December -NYT http://ift.tt/1VuPMSi 

Obama Thanks Arne Duncan for Record ‘No Other Education Secretary Can Match’ | TIME http://ow.ly/T1Xfr

Meet The Next [Unofficial] Secretary Of Education : NPR Ed : NPR http://ow.ly/SXumM 

Outgoing Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had ambitious, controversial reach – LA Times http://ow.ly/T1OCn 

There were some fun/filler kinds of things:

The HuffingtonPost’s slide show of the Obama-Duncan bromance was a lot of fun.

EdWeek’s roundup of headlines from The Onion (plus the Duncan-as-stripper photo) was also a lot of fun.

The CHE has a roundup of Duncan’s best moments on the basketball court.

Someone created a @arneforamerica campaign to have him run for President.

EdSurge rounded up reactions to the Duncan departure from folks like Terry Grier, Vander Ark, Dallas Dance, Wendy Kopp.

How’d everyone do, given this deluge of coverage? It’s a mixed bag:

*AP broke the story (breaking the hearts of Politico, the Washington Post, and others in the process). However, it’s not clear if the announcement was a scoop or a leak. 

*The Washington Post at first reported that Duncan was the longest-serving EdSec (leaving out Clinton’s Dick Riley). But there were no major mess-ups.

*There was more speculation and reaction (aka “analysis”) than I would have wanted from the major outlets– and less concrete information dug up about the events unfolding.

For example, we still don’t really know what prompted the announcement on Friday. There were apparently some questions from reporters to Duncan about his future plans at a Wednesday event. Given the presence of Duncan’s family it didn’t seem like it was a last-minute thing. 

Some observers have suggested that the announcement was prompted by the announced departure of Cong. Boehner, who was thought to be pushing for a new ESEA to replace the current NCLB. Others speculated that it had more to do with Duncan’s wife’s new UofC Lab School job.  The Tribune had some Chicago folks talking about what Duncan might do next.

But this is all informed speculation.

*Some news outlets over-played the easy reform pro/con conflict angle.

For example, I thought Vox made a bit too much about the possible fallout of the King announcement, given that the unions and everyone else are all focused on the Clinton/Sanders/Biden situation.  Politico’s take – even more so.

It’s one thing for Valerie Strauss to push that base-rallying storyline, but another thing for mainstream journalists to go along when it doesn’t really make sense. If you read them, the NEA and AFT statements about the announcement weren’t particularly vitriolic — though the BATs and other activists were obviously trying to make noise (as they should).

Speaking of King, we still don’t know when did White House decide on King, who else if anyone was on the shortlist, and did King really want the job? We don’t know anyone else who might have been asked or considered — or suggested by others (including the DNC, the unions, and the major presidential candidates). 

Speaking of the Presidential race, we still don’t know what the major Democratic candidates have to say about the Duncan/King swap — yet another thing I’d like to know.

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.