With the news that President Obama has nominated Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana to be the Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education, we have reached a milestone of sorts. All of the major k-12 education positions have been filled. And on the whole, it's a talented lot, generally reform-oriented, and diverse.
But there's one box that Obama and his talent scouts failed to check: There isn't a single state superintendent among the bunch. As far as I know (and tell me if I'm wrong), there's nobody on his team who has even ever worked for a state department of education.
That's pretty remarkable, significant, and, I think, foolhardy. To be clear, I share no particular love for state education agencies. These classic bureaucracies are easy to hate. But there's no getting around the fact that if you work for the federal government and want to influence local school districts, there's no getting around the states.
Well, almost no getting around them. It's true that the feds sometimes make grants directly to local school districts, and no doubt Arne & Company will...