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Obama hasn’t picked an Ed Sec, but maybe a transition team

The Fordham Foundation’s blog, Flypaper, is reporting that President-elect Obama will announce his education transition team either tomorrow or early next week. The blog reports that Clinton administration official Judith Winston would lead the team, which would lay the groundwork for the administration’s first moves in education.

I spoke to Winston at her office today and she said she couldn’t comment.

If she is heading up a transition team, the choice suggests that Obama is still side-stepping that little problem of figuring out where to land on the spectrum of policy positions. My understanding is that Winston is someone who knows the bureaucracy well, but not necessarily someone with a strong stance on education policy. Winston was the general counsel to President Clinton’s education secretary, Richard Riley, for eight years, and Under Secretary for two of those years.

Even if a transition team is named, big decisions like who will run the Education Department will likely not happen immediately. People close to the process tell me that the president-elect has not made a decision on which person to select as Education Secretary. In past transitions, that decision has taken about a month or so to make.

In that department, here are the names I’m hearing, including a new surprise that I’ll start off with:

  • Intel chairman Craig Barrett, who since retiring as C.E.O. of the company has become a leading business voice pushing for improved education, serving on commissions and committees including the No Child Left Behind Commission. Naming him would be a huge win for the argument that schools need to improve in order to help the economy.
  • Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who in his post-Bush administration life is leading an anti-high school dropout campaign
  • Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan, who is seen as a compromise choice: innovative but plays fair with teachers unions
  • Governors are generally seen as safe choices, and the names I’ve heard are Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Tim Kaine of Virginia.