On Jan. 20, after the congressional luncheon held for the inauguration of President Obama, a number of Cabinet appointees were confirmed, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Duncan was unanimously confirmed by members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. There was enthusiasm for the nomination on both sides of the aisle, and his confirmation was smooth, as predicted.
At his confirmation hearing on Jan. 13, Duncan outlined his three major goals if confirmed as secretary of Education: 1) improving access to high-quality early childhood programs, 2) raising standards for K-12 schools and improving teacher quality and 3) improving access to and affordability of post-secondary education. He also urged a lengthening of the school day and the school year. Duncan pledged to expand opportunities for the extraordinary teachers across the country to become better leaders and to shine a bright light on the "pockets of excellence" that do exist. He shared that his experience has taught him that if better opportunities are offered, innovation is supported and excellence is rewarded, schools can be transformed. During the seven years he served as Chicag Public School's CEO he saw positive improvements among all indicators of success.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, congratulated Duncan on his confirmation. Miller stated, "As President Obama said yesterday, transforming our schools and colleges will be one of the most important things we can do to rebuild our economy and our country. This swift confirmation will allow Secretary Duncan to get started on this mission right away."
Duncan has yet to announce permanent appointments for the top positions within the Department of Education, and until these appointments are made, several career ED employees have been filling these positions. Philip Link is currently serving as the acting deputy secretary; Joe Conaty is serving as the acting assistant secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education; and Vickie Schray is serving as the ating under secretary and acting assistant secretary for the Office of Postsecondary Education.