A few minutes ago, a wire story was filed quoting an official speaking "on the condition of anonymity because a public announcement has not been made." The official apparently whispered into the ear of the reporter that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan would be sticking around for President Barack Obama's second term.
Color us puzzled.
Such type of blind sourcing isn't exactly necessary. Almost two months ago, we (and Education Week) reported similar news -- coming from a higher official, speaking on the record. We wrote at the time:
"Let me, first, sketch the outlines, or provide a mini-preview, of a second-term education agenda," Duncan told state education leaders at the Council of Chief State School Officers conference in Atlanta, according to prepared remarks provided to The Huffington Post.
Duncan had previously told The Huffington Post in September 2011 that he intended to stay for a second term if Obama asked him, saying that he hates working against a clock. Many expected Duncan, Obama's basketball buddy, to stay, but over the last week, representatives of the White House would not confirm the appointment on the record. Politico last week speculated that, should Duncan leave, former Washington, D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee would be a leading candidate for the job. But nominating Rhee, a lightning rod in education policy, would signify a return to Obama's harder-line rhetoric on teachers. Education policy insiders dismissed such speculation as highly unlikely.
Duncan's first term has been marked by ups and downs with teachers and their unions. The administration spent billions on teacher hiring as part of the stimulus bill, a move praised by the unions for helping to minimize the trend of increasing class sizes post-recession. However, Duncan drew ire from the unions -- a loyal and active part of the Democratic base -- with the Race to the Top competition, which encouraged states to create more charter schools and evaluate teachers in accordance with their students' test scores. Duncan also essentially circumvented the thornier parts of George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind law by offering waivers to states that agreed to implement the administration's agenda.
Duncan continued to outline his plans:
Duncan said to expect more of the same. "Our basic theory of action is not going to change," he said Friday, according to prepared remarks. "Our job, in a second term, is to support the bold and transformational reforms at the state and local level that so many of you have pursued during the last four years."
Specifically, that means continuing "to provide incentives and supports" for states to implement the administration's favored reforms, which might be a tough haul, given the response at the ballot box to similar reforms during last week's elections.
The No Child waivers have proven problematic in some states like Virginia, which set different standards for academic achievement for children from different racial backgrounds.
"As states proceed with waivers, we can't let the perfect become the enemy of the good," Duncan said in his prepared remarks. "We can't let the utopian become the enemy of the excellent. And we can't let rhetorical purity become the enemy of rigorous practice and real accountability."
We would be remiss if we didn't recall hat Duncan reminded people in the room that he served at the pleasure of the president. But we assume that line was delivered with a wink -- because my, what detailed second-term plans for an unsure nominee.
In case that's not enough for you, we asked Duncan's press secretary Daren Briscoe if we could move this confirmation into the on the record, not anonymous category. And he said yes.