DURING the election campaign the economy submerged most talk of education. But beneath the surface, a debate churned between the self-proclaimed reformers and the teachers’ unions. By choosing Arne Duncan, Chicago’s schools chief and one of his own basketball buddies, Barack Obama this week has managed to please both sides.
School reformers had been edgy for weeks, noting that Mr Obama’s transition team included Linda Darling-Hammond, an education professor at Stanford University. Ms Darling-Hammond is a vocal critic of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the federal law that promotes testing and accountability. Many feared that she would nudge Mr Obama towards the unions or even become education secretary herself.
If Ms Darling-Hammond represented one end of the debate, at the other extreme were Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, chancellors of the school systems of New York and Washington, DC, respectively. Both have supported charter (independently-run but government-funded) schools and paying teachers by results. Both have championed tough accountability. But both have infuriated unions, and Mr Obama has opted not to pick a fight.