After weeks of debate between two dueling education camps, a source close to the transition team says Obama's pick for education secretary could be announced--or leaked--before the end of the week. Based on conversations with transition officials, the source says the choice likely will be one of three final candidates: Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago's public schools; Michael Bennet, head of Denver's public schools; or John Schnur, an Obama adviser and CEO of the non-profit organization New Leaders for New Schools.
Choosing any one of these three would (mostly) satisfy both the reform camp, which supports aggressive, bipartisan policies for accountability and testing, and the traditionalist camp, which is more closely aligned with teachers' unions and the Democratic establishment. "He's not looking at someone at either end of the spectrum of this debate, at [reformers] like Michelle Rhee or Joel Klein or those more resistant to reform like Linda Darling-Hammond," says the source, an education expert. "He's looking at people in the middle who are reform-minded, who have vision and commitment, but also an ability to collaborate."
As leaders of large school systems, both Duncan and Bennet have battled with unions on several issues. Yet Duncan was praised recently by Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, and Bennet has received support for the secretary nomination from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association. The source says Schnur, who previously advised Al Gore and former education secretary Richard Riley, has the most Beltway experience of the three, which might also make him a strong pick for a deputy role.
"There's always a chance that there's a wildcard [for secretary]," the source adds, but likely not someone who's a "radical departure" from the education debate's middle-ground faction.