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From Tweed to the classroom, New Yorkers weigh in on Duncan

Since last night, when it became clear that Arne Duncan would be nominated today to be the country’s next secretary of education, statements from school officials, advocates, and policy wonks across the country have been rolling into our e-mail inbox at a fast and furious clip.

Here’s a compilation of statements from folks in New York City, including Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, UFT President Randi Weingarten, a high school student, and more. We’ll post more reactions as we get them.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein:

President-elect Obama couldn’t have made a better choice. In Chicago, Arne Duncan has shown America how to reform public schools and help students achieve. Arne’s nomination is a signal that the new administration cares deeply about transforming our country’s public schools. It has been an honor for me to share strategies and ideas with Arne in recent years, and I look forward to working with him to make our shared vision a reality for America’s school children.

UFT and AFT President Randi Weingarten:

We are pleased that President-elect Barack Obama has selected Arne Duncan as his education secretary nominee. The position is as important as any other in the cabinet, particularly because the decisions we make today about education affect our children’s future as well as the health and well-being of our national democracy.

As Chicago schools’ chief executive officer, Duncan has shown a genuine commitment to what we see as the essential priorities for an incoming education secretary. There may be times when we will differ, but we believe we will agree fully that America’s students and teachers need an education secretary committed to focusing on real solutions for closing the achievement gap and providing every child with a rigorous, well-rounded education that prepares him or her for college, work and life. Duncan has collaborated with the Chicago Teachers Union and other community partners on various reform programs to help students with the greatest needs. One of Chicago’s stand-out programs is a form of community schooling that brings a variety of wraparound services under the school roof, including tutoring, recreational and social service programs that extend through the evening hours.

This is a moment when our public schools face serious challenges, now exacerbated by steep budget cuts that often take the most severe toll on the most vulnerable students. We must invest, not divest, in our children’s education. America’s next secretary of education must fight to ensure that the investment is protected. The education secretary should deeply value public education, understand what works for schools and students, and collaborate with teachers and other community partners to improve education for all children. Arne Duncan has exhibited these qualities in Chicago, and we look forward to being a partner in that collaborative process on a national scale.

Geoffrey Canada of Learn NY (and Harlem Children’s Zone):

In selecting Arne Duncan as his secretary of education, President-elect Barack Obama is making yet another wise choice for his cabinet. Duncan is a true leader in education reform and has made remarkable progress in Chicago. He has successfully worked to bring all stakeholders – teachers, parents, students and administrators – to the table to solve the real problems facing our education system.

One reason Duncan has been able to make such gains is because in Chicago, like New York City, the mayor has control over the school system. Duncan’s progress has clearly demonstrated why mayoral control is effective: the key is accountability. Mayoral control allows for real improvements, innovative policies and greater efficiency. Ultimately, an accountable school governance system is the only way to give our children a chance at a better future.

Arne Duncan will be an excellent secretary of education, and I look forward to working with him. It is my hope that we can learn from the progress of places like Chicago and New York City, as we try to give all our children the opportunity to be future leaders.

Democrats for Education Reform:

Democrats for Education Reform Commends Obama Administration on Appointment of Arne Duncan as Education Secretary

Move sends strong signal that education reform will be a priority for the administration

In response to the selection of Chicago Schools CEO Arne Duncan to head the U.S. Department of Education in President-elect Obama’s administration, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), an organization that supports Democratic candidates committed to education reform, championed the selection and urged the incoming secretary to make good on the promises Obama made while campaigning for the presidency.

DFER was an early advocate of the selection of Duncan because of his commitment to education reform ideas and his experience implementing reform in the Chicago Public Schools.

“The Obama administration, with Arne Duncan at the head of the Department of Education, will lead the charge of breaking the existing ideological and political gridlock to promote new, innovative and experimental ideas in education,” said Joe Williams, executive director of DFER.

DFER believes Duncan represents the very best choice for the Secretary of Education with his long history of commitment to improving public education in the United States. As CEO of Chicago Public Schools since 2001, Ducan has demonstrated that he understands that improving educational opportunities for children is a critical investment in our nation’s future. Under Duncan’s leadership, Chicago has been at the forefront of school restructuring and improving teacher quality. During his seven year tenure Chicago Public Schools have demonstrated sustained improvements in student achievement, graduation rates and college-going rates.

“During the long fight for the presidency Barack Obama made clear that education will be a central focus of his administration,” said Kevin Chavous, chairman of the DFER board. “In his speech in Grant Park in Chicago on election night President-elect Obama listed education in his top five priorities for his term in office. He has promised to increase funding for charter schools, create a system for rewarding excellent teachers, and expand pre-K—all issues that DFER has campaigned rigorously in favor of.”

DFER supports Democratic candidates committed to progressive ideas like greater mayoral accountability for schools; adjustments in teacher licensing requirements; changes to teacher compensation to reward our best educators; and a renewed focus on early childhood education (in particular, linking early childhood education with charter schools, which usually do not include Pre-K).

Council of School Administrators President Ernest Logan:

CSA welcomes President-elect Barack Obama’s selection of Chicago Schools Superintendent Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. As superintendent, Mr. Duncan has championed increased recruitment and training of school principals and assistant principals, expansion of early childhood education, and the strengthening of mathematics and science education to prepare students to meet the challenges of an intensely competitive global environment. CSA looks forward to working with Arne Duncan. We send him our heartfelt congratulations as he takes on the great tasks of school leadership and reform and the goal of educational excellence and equity for all families and all children.

Toni Bruno, a high school student and New York City Student Union member:

Congratulations on your new position as Secretary of Education! … Whenever a new education policy comes out, newspapers are filled with the reactions of parents, teachers, administrators and unions. Ironically enough, no one seems particularly interested in the student perspective. You might consider including students in decision-making during the next four (or eight) years. Maybe you’ll have an advisory board or some kind of representative student council from around the country. Surprisingly, we have valuable opinions on what makes a good learning environment, a good teacher and a good school. We understand the value of arts education, and the difference between good tests and ones that are a waste of our learning time. [Read Toni’s full post on Insideschools]

The Education Equality Project’s Joel Klein and Al Sharpton:

President-elect Obama has made a superb choice. Arne Duncan is a supporter of the Education Equality Project with a record that shows that he is willing to take necessary risks, challenge tradition, and hold educators accountable for preparing students for college and the workforce. These are the leadership qualities a Secretary of Education must bring to the task of fixing public education in our country.

Arne’s leadership in Chicago reflects the conviction that every decision related to schools must place the needs of children above any other consideration. In a city that for years had one of the lowest-performing school systems in the nation, he gave parents options for their children by creating charter schools, magnet schools, small schools, and military academies. He was willing to close schools that had long failed students. He demanded greater leadership from principals and embraced mentoring programs and performance pay to keep highly effective teachers from leaving the system. Chicago’s children have benefited from these reforms: over the past seven years, more students than ever are meeting or exceeding reading and math standards and graduation rates have steadily improved.

Those of us who have worked closely with Arne respect his integrity, his dedication to improving the lives of children, and his uncompromising vision of great schools. The position he will assume is of critical importance to our nation, and we will do whatever we can to help him succeed.

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