What Arne Duncan means to charter schools

President-elect Barack Obama's choice for Secretary of Education - Chicago school head Arne Duncan - is known as a friend of charter schools. Both teacher's unions and reformers approve of the candidate. This could be good news for the International Community School, says Laurent Ditmann, the principal of the Atlanta charter school for refugees and US-born students.

President-elect Barack Obama's choice for Secretary of Education - Chicago school head Arne Duncan - is known as a friend of charter schools. Both teacher's unions and reformers approve of the candidate. This could be good news for the International Community School, says Laurent Ditmann, the principal of the Atlanta charter school for refugees and US-born students. Last fall, when the school's charter renewal looked dicey, ICS parents and administrators said they hoped Mr. Obama would significantly overhaul the problematic No Child Left Behind act during his first year in office. A revision of the act could help to clarify questions about Highly Qualified Teachers that plague charters, and may cost some ICS refugee assistant teachers their jobs.

"I don't know any serious educator who thinks No Child Left Behind is a good idea," Dr. Ditmann says.

Since then, Georgia schools - which have been losing money for years; $10 million in ICS's DeKalb County since 2002 - have sunk deeper into the hole.

"Everything is in such carnage financially," says ICS parent Marney Mayo, who spends a lot of time lobbying the state legislature on behalf of charter schools, that Georgia lawmakers don't seem to be paying much attention to Obama's cabinet appointments.

"Especially in Georgia," she says, where Republicans dominate the state legislature, "the Republicans would rather be in denial that Obama even won." His appointment of Mr. Duncan, says Ms. Mayo, "is not a signal that's gonna be heard by the state legislature."

But elsewhere, charter supporters and others are optimistic about the new appointment. "Duncan is embraced by the teachers unions, who have been concerned about high-stakes testing and worry about merit pay being tied to test scores, as well as reformers, who favor charter schools and tougher standards," writes The Washington Post this morning."He represents a compromise choice in the debate that has divided Democrats in recent months over the proper course for public-school policy after the Bush years," writes The New York Times, "In straddling the two camps, Mr. Duncan seem[s] to reflect Mr. Obama's own impatience with what he has called "tired educational debates."

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