Obama to tap Duncan; DPS chief Bennet out of running for ed secretary

Chicago Schools CEO Arne Duncan will be named secretary of education at a press conference on Tuesday at a Chicago-area school, The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder is reporting Monday afternoon. The choice came down to Duncan, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Michael Bennet and John Schnur, an Obama education adviser and CEO of the New Leaders for New Schools organization, The New Republic reported earlier Monday afternoon.

Sizing up the three finalists, TNR’s Seyward Darby wrote:

Choosing any one of these three would (mostly) satisfy both the reform camp, which supports aggressive, bipartisan policies for accountability and testing, and the traditionalist camp, which is more closely aligned with teachers’ unions and the Democratic establishment.

In the run-up to an announcement — one of the last cabinet positions to be filled by the Obama transition team — the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s influential Flypaper blog daily tracking poll of education insiders called it “a two-way race between Arne Duncan and Michael Bennet, with Duncan still in the driver’s seat.” Last week, as the Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich scandal swept the news, Flypaper speculated the Chicago taint had boosted Bennet’s chances.

“(Obama is) looking at people in the middle who are reform-minded, who have vision and commitment, but also an ability to collaborate,” an education expert close to the transition told TNR. Don’t rule out a deputy secretary nomination for at least one of the runners-up, though.

As leaders of large school systems, both Duncan and Bennet have battled with unions on several issues. Yet Duncan was praised recently by Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, and Bennet has received support for the secretary nomination from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association.

The announcement will leave one Coloradan still standing with hopes for the Obama cabinet — Sen. Ken Salazar, pegged the “leading contender” for secretary of interior, a post Obama said at a Monday press conference he plans to fill later this week.

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Ernest Luning

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