US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will send his children to a private school in Chicago this upcoming fall, as confirmed by an email sent by Mr. Duncan’s press secretary. The former head of Chicago public schools served as chief from 2001 to 2008, making him the, “longest-serving big-city education superintendent in the country,” according to his White House biography.
Mr. Duncan grew up in Chicago, and attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where his two children will be enrolled at in the fall. His wife, Karen, will resume teaching at the private school. Dependents of employees of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools get 50 percent of their tuition paid for by the University of Chicago. Until now, Duncan had been sending his kids to a public school in Arlington, Virginia.
So how did Chicago's public schools fare under Duncan's leadership, and since his departure in early 2009?
From 1995 to 2005, the City of Chicago saw a 9.2 percent increase in the graduation rate to 51 percent of students entering high school graduating. In 2013, the percentage had increased to 65 percent. That same year, the average high school graduation rate across the United States was 81 percent.
“This year’s high school graduation rate is a testament to the dedication and hard work of our students, teachers, principals, and parents who stayed focused, engaged, and energized around the importance of finishing high school for a brighter future,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a press release following the announcement of the increase in graduation rate.
In 2014, there were 400,000 students enrolled in 600 schools in the district, making it the third largest public school district in the United States according to the 2014 American Schools and Universities ranking. However, the Chicago Public Schools system currently faces a $665 million budget deficit, in its operating budget of $5.162 billion.
Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the Chicago schools chief since 2012, resigned this spring in the wake of a federal investigation into potential misconduct.
In a speech given June 26, Duncan said, “The world is in the midst of a massive shift—from the predictability of the Industrial Age to the uncertainty of the Networked Age. And public schools – as always – are at the center of that change.”