Throughout the campaign, B-Rock essentially played both sides of the reform/evolution debate. In this area, he took the classic politician’s pose of disagreeing with his base enough to look brave (vague personal support for some merit pay ideas to scattered boos at a union meeting), while not committing to any dangerous positions.
As “thoughtful conservative” David Brooks notes in the NY Times Friday, eventually the guy has to pick a side. In choosing union stallwart, TFA critic, and merit pay opponent Linda Darling-Hammond to head his education transition committee, Obama has sent a signal that major reform not be a priority of the new administration.
Of course, the real question is who is appointed Secretary of Education. Should Darling-Hammond suggest herself for the role, there would be some conflict with Obama’s support for the ideas behind No Child Left Behind (if not the execution and collateral damage). Also being mentioned, however, are hardcore reformers like NYC’s Joe Klein and Chicago’s Arne Duncan, both of whom seem closer to the President-Elect’s worldview. This looks like the classic Obama move: set up seriously opposing viewpoints and see what shakes out.
While Brooks is upset at Darling-Hammond’s prominence for the risk it poses for reform (and out of his general skepticism about union stalwarts), Seyward Darby at The New Republic is more concerned about applying this same culture of conflict to this issue at such a critical moment. Making Darling-Hammond the face of the new administration’s education policy, even temporarily, is starting things off on the wrong foot: “Vexing education’s boldest change agents won’t help Obama substantiate his still-murky education reform credentials.”
Reformers, hoping for top-level change for the first time in a long time, are waiting with baited breath. There’s really no telling at this point where things are going.
One more endorsement for Arne Duncan by Matt Yglesias (Center for American Progress)