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UPDATED: Bennet to the Senate

So he may not have gotten picked for education secretary, but it looks like Denver schools chief Michael Bennet is headed to Washington anyway, at least according to the Rocky Mountain News. Apparently, he's been tapped by Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, a Democrat, to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Ken Salazar, who is President-elect Barack Obama's choice for Interior Secretary.

Fans of merit-pay programs are probably knocking back champagne flutes to celebrate the news. In Denver, Bennet presided over what is considered a model pay-for-performance program - with teachers' union buy-in.

Of course, it's too early to say for sure whether Bennet will continue to work on education issues once he's in the Senate. But, if he's interested, there should be at least two vacancies on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee that he can fill: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's and Obama's.

Obama released a statement today, giving the choice a thumbs up.

"Michael Bennet perfectly reflects the qualities of the ruggedly independent state he has been chosen to serve," he said. "His breakthrough work at the helm of Denver's schools has reflected that commitment, and established Michael as one of the nation's leading education reformers. .. He will be a breath of fresh air in Washington."

UPDATED: And the reform-minded Democrats for Education Reform gave the pick a double thumbs up: "Bennet has been part of a growing movement around this country which understands that saving public education requires a major transformation in the way we think about schooling. That kind of fresh approach extends beyond education. The boldness he brought to the superintendent's office in Denver will make him an important player in a Washington which has been put on notice by American voters. It is hard to think of a more appropriate leader to question 'business as usual' than Michael Bennet."

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