U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan faces an increasingly rocky education policy landscape and wavering support for his aggressive K-12 agenda—at a time when his stack of bargaining chips is dwindling.
Compared to his assets in President Barack Obama\’s first term, Mr. Duncan has few sweeteners left to use as leverage. That\’s likely to leave him even more dependent on sanctions and persuasion in the administration\’s final three years.
On the incentive side, he\’s spent nearly $100 billion in economic-stimulus money approved by Congress in 2009 and used his own authority to hand out No Child Left Behind Act waivers to nearly every state.
But Congress seems more dysfunctional than ever, and less and less likely to give the Obama administration what it wants. After the 2014 midterm elections, when the administration will enter its twilight, Mr. Duncan\’s clout will diminish even more.
Yet this is a crucial time for education policy. Most states are on the verge of fully implementing the Common Core State Standards and are bracing for the tests aligned with them. New teacher evaluations tied to student academic growth are being rolled out across the country. And the No Child Left Behind waivers granted to states so far let them set up school rating systems approved by the U.S. Department of Education with student-achievement goals and interventions for struggling schools that differ fundamentally from provisions of the NCLB law.
With most of his carrots gone, and no new money coming in, Mr. Duncan primarily has two tools left to protect his K-12 agenda and keep states in line: the bully pulpit and enforcement sticks. More…