U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan may have left Chicago, but the politics of his former position as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools continues to follow him to D.C. “While many Chicago parents took formal routes to land their children in the best schools, the well-connected also sought help through a shadowy appeals system created in recent years under former schools chief Arne Duncan,” reported the Chicago Tribune on March 23.
“Whispers have long swirled that some children get spots in the city’s premier schools based on whom their parents know. But a list maintained over several years in Duncan’s office and obtained by the Tribune lends further evidence to those charges.”
The Tribune found what appears to be Duncan’s own initials beside the names of students appealing for special consideration from school principals. “The initials ‘AD’ are listed 10 times as the sole person requesting help for a student, and as a co-requester about 40 times,” it reports.
“[Former top Duncan aide, David] Pickens said ‘AD’ stood for Arne Duncan, though Duncan’s involvement is unclear. Duncan’s mother appears as a sponsor, as does ‘KD,’ whom Pickens identified as Karen Duncan, Arne’s wife.”
Pickens is currently the “chief of staff to the president of the Chicago Board of Education,” they report.
The New York Times quotes Peter Cunningham, “who handled communications for Mr. Duncan in Chicago and is now assistant secretary of the Department of Education” as saying “Arne Duncan asked David Pickens to respond to all of these requests, some of which came from him, some from lots of other people, as a way to try to manage a process that was putting a lot of pressure on principals. … This was an attempt to buffer principals from all the outside pressure, to get our arms around something that was burdensome to them. It was always up to the principal to make the decision. Arne never ever picked up the phone. …”
“In July, Mr. Huberman announced an internal investigation of the city’s 52 application-based elementary and high schools. The president of the Chicago school board, Michael Scott, who had been subpoenaed in the federal investigation, committed suicide in November,” reports Tamar Lewin for the NY Times (emphasis added).
Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.