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School Choice Advocates Weigh In on Education Secretary's Resignation

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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who has been a strong supporter of charter schools, announced Friday morning that he will be leaving his post in December. 

He will be succeeded by John King, the former New York state schools chief who has been serving as a senior adviser to Duncan.

"The reform community has been a huge fan of the secretary because of his commitment to accountability, charter schools, and also his pragmatic approach to solving problems—he was not an ideologue," said Nina Rees, the president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. "The person who is taking over for him is, John King, is an equally respected friend of the reform movement."

The Obama administration and the education department helped support and expand charter schools through a couple of programs including the Investing in Innovation Fund and the Charter Schools Program.

But not everyone in K-12 education has been a fan of Duncan, and the administration's policies, writes my colleague Alyson Klein, who covers the department for Education Week.

"The rapid pace of change Duncan and his team initiated on the nation's schools - especially through its Race to the Top competition and waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act, the current version of ESEA [the Elementary and Secondary Education Act]- has led to massive blowback from everyone from teachers to state chiefs and the administration's own Democratic allies in Congress."

There are also big questions about what will happen to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act post-Duncan, which you can read more about here.

Duncan did not support all types of school choice equally and for that reason has earned mixed reviews from voucher advocates. 

"He's gone a lot further than a lot of other Democratic education secretaries on supporting educational options, but he didn't go far enough," said Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. "The D.C. voucher program was right under his nose, and he didn't support it."

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program—which gives money to low-income students to attend a school of their choice, including private schools—is a small but oft contested voucher program between congressional Republicans and the Obama adminstration

And on King's appointment Enlow said, "I've heard that he's very supportive of charter schools and very pro-parent. ... But he will be constrained by the Obama administration's policy which is not supportive of private school choice in general."

Below is a sampling of reaction on Twitter from other leaders, advocates and researchers, in the school choice community, including Chris Barbic, the founder of the YES Prep Charter Network and superintendent of Tennessee's Achievement School District; Ben Austin, an early proponent of the parent-trigger and founder of Parent Revolution; Kara Kerwin, president of the Center for Education Reform; and Andre Perry, an urban education expert based in New Orleans.


Photo: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gets a warm welcome from the band at the Sophie B. Wright Charter School in New Orleans, during a visit in March 2009. —Cheryl Gerber/AP-File

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