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Duncan in the WSJ: Money as the Lever of Change

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Education secretary Arne Duncan seems to be getting even tougher on states who may be playing financial shell games with their state stabilization fund money, declaring in an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal: "If they divert money intended for education to noneducational purposes, we may deny future funding or even seek to recover misspent funds."

While Duncan has certainly said he would deny future funding (e.g. Race to the Top funding), I'm hard pressed to remember when he's actually threatened to get the money back. In fact, in an edweek.org interview with him last month, I asked him specifically whether he'd ask for the money back, and he dodged that question (focusing on getting it right on the front-end.)

Perhaps he's tired of reading newspaper pieces like this one from Texas.

In the op-ed, Duncan wonders whether the country will have the collective political will to make tough choices. It will be interesting to see how Duncan handles these tough choices, too. In the op-ed, he talks of making options available to parents, whether those choices are charters, or "some other model." So far, he certainly hasn't made a very strong case for keeping the much-discussed D.C. voucher program.

Or how will Duncan handle tough choices about how involved teachers' unions (who Duncan says are more committed that ever before to change) should be in spending stimulus money, as my colleague on the Teacher Beat Stephen Sawchuk discusses.

Duncan sums his thoughts up with this: "We must close the achievement gap by pursuing what works best for kids, regardless of ideology."

1 Comment

In order for Duncan to get "even tougher," he would have to be "tough" in the first place. What evidence is there that he has been tough on the states at all? He has just given them around $100 billion dollars, with virtually no strings attached other than asking that they promise to use it well. But without binding regulations, this doesn't make him "tough" at all, let alone "even tougher."

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