Romney’s pick for Education: Jeb? Rhee?

With the Republican convention underway, it’s time to speculate about Romney’s pick for Education secretary. Over at Politics K-12, Alyson Klein writes that  former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is the number one guess among GOP insiders. Bush wrote the foreword to Romney’s education plan and is the “godfather” of the state superintendents’ group “Chiefs for Change,” which has “had a major impact on state-level education policies.”

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, of Minnesota also is a top mentionee.

If Romney looks for a state superintendent, Tony Bennett of Indiana, a Chief for Change, and Tom Luna of Idaho are possibilities.

. . . given Romney’s dissing of the teacher’s unions, Luna’s got anti-union street cred to spare—his tires were slashed last year when he tried to raise class size and put merit pay in place.

Other folks are fans of New Jersey’s Chris Cerf, a registered Democrat who, works with a GOP governor (Tuesday’s keynote speaker, Chris Christie).

Former superintendents include Robert Scott (Texas), Paul Pastorek (Louisiana) and Lisa Graham Keegan (of Arizona).

Folks have also suggested that Romney could use the Education Department as the one place to stick a (non-state chief) Democrat, to show his administration can be bipartisan. The name that came up most often? Former New York City chancellor Joel Klein. Other folks suggested Michelle Rhee, a Democrat, who is now running the Students First juggernaut and will be in both Tampa and Charlotte. She’ll be at screenings of the parent-trigger movie “Won’t Back Down.”

The darkest of dark horses? Some of Klein’s Republican sources suggested Romney could ask Arne Duncan to stick around. “Even if it is a joke, it shows Duncan’s still got some cross-aisle credibility,” writes Klein.

Duncan started as the tutor’s kid

Prospective Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s education career started in infancy: His mother Sue took him along as she tutored poor black children in churches on the South Side of Chicago.  Sue Duncan began teaching a summer Bible study class in 1961.

“We had one Bible, and I thought we could each read a few sentences and pass the Bible around the circle. And I discovered not one of the children could read,” Sue Duncan said.

The tutoring program was born, held in neighborhood churches and attended by kids who heard about it through word-of-mouth.

When her children were born, she brought the babies along. As they grew older, they became tutors.

“When you learned how to read, it was, take these 2- and 3-year-olds, and read them this book. At 7, you’re teaching kids phonics; at 8, math. At 12, you’re running the gym for 5- and 6-year-olds,” said Sarah Duncan, Arne’s younger sister.

A student at the private University of Chicago Lab School, Duncan learned to play basketball in the church gym, going on to co-captain the Harvard team.  He worked for a year in his mother’s tutoring center and wrote his senior thesis, “The Values, Aspirations and Opportunities of the Urban Underclass,” on it.

After a brief career as a professional basketball player in Australia, Duncan ran an old friend’s educational foundation in Chicago, helping to open a school.  He was hired to run magnet schools for the Chicago school district; in 2001, he became superintendent.

Teachers don’t like superintendents (or Education secretaries) who’ve never worked as teachers. But you can’t say Duncan has been isolated from the challenges of helping kids learn.

Here’s the C-Span video on Duncan’s testimony before Congress.