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Arne Duncan is stepping down as federal Education Secretary, but the Washington Post news story of almost 3,000 words left out some key details. Duncan, one of the president’s Chicago pals, has been the federal point man against school choice. As we noted, the current president, like Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter before him, does not send his own children to the dysfunctional and dangerous Washington, DC, public schools. In 2009, the same year Duncan became federal ED boss, the Washington Post said needy DC families also “want only a quality education for their children.” Their few alternatives included charter schools and the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provided vouchers of up to $7,500 for low-income students to attend the independent schools of their choice. Teacher unions and federal educrats oppose all school-choice programs, and Arne Duncan captains their squad.
As the Post said, “Mr. Duncan decided – disappointingly to our mind – to rescind scholarships awarded to 216 families for this upcoming school year.” Duncan didn’t just oppose the scholarship program in principle. He took away scholarships already awarded, in effect taking points off the scoreboard. Those deprived families were virtually all black. And as the Post said, “nine out of 10 students who were shut out of the scholarship program this year are assigned to attend failing public schools.” Arne Duncan banished them to the losing team, but that is not the only reason he was out of place.
The federal Department of Education dates only from 1978 and was Jimmy Carter’s payoff to teacher unions for endorsing him in his run for president. The Department now commands a budget of nearly $70 billion. As Vicki Alger notes, student achievement has not improved under the bloated federal bureaucracy, where salaries average $100,000, with executives bagging an average of $170,000.
As we also observed, the U.S. Department of Education deploys an armed enforcement division they claim fights “waste, fraud, abuse and other criminal activity.” The Department actually represents institutionalized waste, fraud and abuse, and that is unlikely to change after the departure of Arne Duncan.