Barack Obama’s Top Contenders for Secretary of Education

President-Elect Obama has been busy putting together a new cabinet, and one of the most important choices is going to be his new Secretary of Education.  This new position is going to be extremely important since, thanks to the financial crisis and the uncertainty of the availability of student loans, college affordability has become an even more pressing issue than before.  In addition, the new Secretary of Education is going to have an important hand in cleaning up the No Child Left Behind Act, which both Republicans and Democrats agree needs some serious work.

All of this means that this could be an exciting and innovative new time for education in the United States!

So who should Obama pick?  According to U.S. News and World Reports, these are some of the possibilities.

1) Joel Klein

One of the front runners is rumored to be Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, which is the largest school system in the United States.  As chancellor, Klein has fought to increase teacher accountability and for the creation of charter schools.

2) James Hunt

This former four-term governor of North Carolina is recognized as a leader in education because of the innovations he enacted in his state.  He fought for higher academic standards and started a statewide preschool program.  He has been quoted as saying, “Education is our future – it’s everything. We must not settle for anything short of excellence in our schools.”

3) Linda Darling-Hammond

Darling-Hammond was the educational advisor for Obama’s campaign, which might give her a leg up.  She is the Charles E. Ducommon Professor of Education at Stanford University, and is the author and editor of 300 books about educational policy and practice.  She also headed the prestigious National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future panel.

4) Arne Duncan

Arne Duncan is the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, so he’s Obama’s hometown favorite. Like Joel Klein in New York, Duncan has brought about dramatic changes in the Chicago schools.  He’s closed down under-performing schools and has enriched the city’s science and math curriculum.

5) Colin Powell

An unlikely choice? Maybe, but Powell has more experience with education than you might think.  He’s the founder of America’s Promise Alliance, an organization comprised of business and educational leaders that has called attention to the nation’s high dropout rate.  After Colin Powell’s heartfelt endorsement of Obama, which was political gold, it seems likely that Powell might find himself with an offer to serve the Obama administration in some capacity.

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