US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced today that he will be stepping down from his role in December, ending a tenure in which he pushed for the increased academic success of students within the United States while drawing criticism from both the left and the right.
Duncan has held the position since the start of Obama’s tenure and is one of the only remaining members of his original cabinet.
“Arne’s done more to bring our educational system, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the 21st century than anyone else,” Mr. Obama said at a White House news conference on Friday. “It’s a record that I truly believe that no other education secretary can match. Arne bleeds this stuff.”
The secretary has been criticized a number of times from both sides as he announced initiatives including Race to the Top and the Common Core educational standards, as well as for his tendency to side with charter schools, writes Gardiner Harris for The New York Times.
However, education is the one area that Republicans largely agree with Duncan on, including his reform agenda, and the implementation of the Common Core standards, although many have since changed their minds on that after witnessing outcries from conservatives as well as teachers, reports Domenico Montanaro for NPR.
Duncan wrote a farewell letter to his colleagues, saying he planned to return to Chicago, where he has been splitting his time after his wife and children moved back over the summer. He added that the role of Secretary has been “the greatest honor of my life.”
President Obama has said that Deputy Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. will replace Duncan. King is a former New York State education commissioner, and at 40 years old, the White House said he will become one of the youngest Cabinet members in history.
Critics of Duncan are none to happy with King’s nomination. While in his role as commissioner of education in New York State, King oversaw the rollout of the Common Core standards in addition to the new standardized tests meant to measure student success with those standards, despite an outcry among teachers and parents.
In a statement on Friday, King told of losing both his parents by the time he was 12 and how teachers were the ones to put him on the path to success after that tragedy.
“New York City public schoolteachers are the reason I’m alive,” he said. “They are the reason I became a teacher. They’re the reason I’m standing here today.”
Meanwhile, Congress is currently considering legislation that would leave King without the authority or financial resources that Duncan had while holding the position.