- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2008



President-elect Barack Obama will name Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan, a longtime friend, to be Secretary of Education on Tuesday.

Mr. Obama plans a morning press conference Tuesday morning at the Dodge Renaissance Academy on the West Side of Chicago. The Democrat sometimes cited the school’s progress in test scores when discussing his education policy.

Mr. Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, is known as a reformer in the education community.

The Obama transition team would not comment that Mr. Duncan would get the Cabinet post but another source said it was certain.

The men, who often play basketball together, visited the school after Mr. Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate.

It is the most improved public school in the state.

Earlier this month Mr. Duncan was seen visiting current Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, in what he told a reporter was just a social call.

On June 29, Mr. Obama played basketball with Mr. Duncan at the East Bank Club. Valerie Jarrett, an adviser who will serve in the White House, also was there.

Whitney Tilson, a prominent New York fundraiser for Mr. Obama who was a founder of Democrats for Education Reform, told The Washington Times he is “beyond thrilled” by the Duncan pick.

Mr. Duncan inherited one of the worst school systems in the nation, and its third largest, and turned it around as a genuine reformer, Mr. Tilson said.

“Chicago has been a model for the nation,” he said.

He lauded Mr. Duncan for his work with Teach for America, for pushing high quality charter schools and shutting down underperforming schools and for favoring merit pay for teachers.

Ms. Tilson said Mr. Duncan was able to achieve “real change” without much “screaming, yelling or divisiveness.”

“He’s the perfect balance of being strong and getting what he wants and doing it in a way that wins,” he said.

Like Mr. Obama, Mr. Duncan attended Harvard University. He was co-captain of the school’s basketball team and once played professional ball in Australia. He has led Chicago schools since 2001.

Education and Labor Committee Chairman Rep. George Miller, California Democrat, also lauded the expected appointment.

Mr. Duncan is a very good choice for school reform and our schoolchildren,” Mr. Miller said.

“He is an experienced and accomplished leader who is open to new ideas for improving our schools,” he said.

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