Who’s on Deck for EdSec?

This month, Washingtonian Magazine did a two-page spread on who Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would select for their Cabinet, should they take ownership of the big desk in the Oval Office.  Lots of interesting names to ponder and fuel cocktail party discussion. 

But one thing troubled Eduflack greatly.  There is no mention of the U.S. Department of Education.  After all of the money and attention spread by Ed in 08.  After the dogged pursuit of the issue by Richard Whitmire and EWA.  No mention of who would lead federal education in this NCLB 2.5, merit pay, voucher/charter whack-a-day world.

So Eduflack is going to take it upon himself to fill the Washingtonian’s holes.  Let’s set aside the campaign advisors that Alexander Russo so kindly provides on his Campaign 08 wiki.  Let’s forget the whispers Eduflack has heard over the last year, mentioning everyone from UFT/AFT Randi Weingarten to Eduwonk Andy Rotherham to even NLNS CEO Jon Schnur.  All good fun, yes, but who do we really think will be heading ED in a Democratic administration?

Eduflack’s narrowed his choice down to a top three … and a dark horse.

Candidate A – NC Gov. Mike Easley.  Gov. Easley is one of the top education governors out there.  He gets it, and speaks passionately about key issues, particularly school-to-work concerns.  Sure, he is a lawyer by trade, but not everyone is perfect.  One could see him in the Secretary Riley model, a strong southern governor who knows how to lead and motivate.  The downside, as a NC governor, he will always be in Jim Hunt’s shadow on education issues.  And he has endorsed Hillary in advance of the NC primary, which could hurt him with Obama later on.

Candidate B — Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.  Cut from the same cloth as Easley, Granholm is smart, articulate, and a true motivator.  She’s also made major education moves in Michigan, from PreK programs to instituting a comprehensive reform to high school graduation requirements.   The downside, we still time to see the effectiveness of her reforms and Michigan’s test numbers are still waiting to see the Granholm bounce.

Candidate C — NYC Chancellor Joel Klein.  He has the results, he has the national recognition, and he is ripe for a new challenge.  What more is there to do in NYC.  He’s won the Broad Prize and test scores are up.  NYC is now the model for urban reform.  Let’s see what he can do on the national stage under a reauthorized NCLB.  The downside, another lawyer who may try to run ED like he ran his department at Justice.  Who at ED is up for that?

The Darkhorse — Rep. George Miller.  We seem to look to governors to serve as EdSec.  Just look at Lamar Alexander and Richard Riley.  Many would say the superintendent experiment with Rod Paige didn’t work (Eduflack doesn’t believe that.  In fact, Eduflack finds Paige to be one of the brightest, thoughtful educators he has had the pleasure of working with (post ED).  It’s unfortunate that DC saw an overly scripted EdSec, courtesy of DPC, and not the real and true Paige.  Paige has gotten a raw deal these past few years, in my opinion).  NCLB needs reauthorization.  ED needs someone who understands Congress.  Who better than a co-author of the original NCLB law, an ed reform champion, and one who has stood up to the status quo.  Let’s give the keys to Miller and let him enforce the spirit of the law he helped write in 2001.  The downside, of course, is why would he want to give up the Ed Committee Chairmanship to run a tough agency during a difficult time?

Let’s see Washingtonian and the whispering class chew on these names for a while, and see what they think.  If not these four, then who? 

And don’t worry, Senator McCain, Eduflack has a few names for you as well.  As you confer with Lisa Graham Keegan on ed issues, try floating names like Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (if you don’t choose him for VP) or Congressman Buck McKeon.  Heck, in another year, Paul Vallas may be ready for another challenge too.  He could be McCain’s token Democrat in the Cabinet.

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