While Education Secretary Arne Duncan says education should be the one issue where “we put politics and ideology to the side,” he still plans to hit the campaign trail for Democratic candidates in mid-October.
Speaking at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters Wednesday, Secretary Duncan said “we have tried to work very hard in a bipartisan way to do the right thing by children.” He added, “I have a great working relationship with Mr. Boehner,” referring to Ohio Republican John Boehner who could become speaker if Republicans take control of the House. “I don’t think he is going to become speaker," he said, "but whatever happens we are going to continue to work closely together.”
When asked whether campaigning for Democrats could risk politicizing education issues, and about his own role negotiating with top Congressional leaders, Secretary Duncan defended his planned political activities as an effort to “support candidates that really care about education.” He cited Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet as having “a chance to be a fantastic voice for education in the Senate for decades to come. So I feel great about supporting a good candidate like that.”
The Secretary called for voters to include education policy in their assessment of candidates. “I would love every election to be a referendum on whether that governor – what did that elected official do for education, what did that candidate do for education," he said. "I want that conversation. And so where you have folks willing to step out there and not talk the talk but walk the walk, I feel good about supporting them.”
The Education Secretary ran the Chicago school system from 2001 until he assumed his cabinet post after President Obama took office in January 2009. His father was a University of Chicago professor and his mother founded an after-school program for disadvantaged youth on Chicago’s South Side when she discovered her 9 year-old Bible study students couldn’t read. Before beginning his education career, Secretary Duncan played professional basketball in Australia, giving him skills that come in handy when he plays on weekends with his friend in the White House.