Arne Duncan

Arne Duncan

Arne Duncan

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U.S. Secretary of Education

Arne Duncan is the ninth U.S. secretary of education. He has served in this post since his confirmation by the U.S. Senate on January 20, 2009, following his nomination by President Barack Obama.

Secretary Duncan’s tenure has been marked by a number of significant accomplishments on behalf of American students and teachers. He helped to secure support for reform efforts such as Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation, interventions in low-performing schools, elimination of student loan subsidies to banks, and a national competition for early learning programs. Secretary Duncan has led efforts to encourage labor and management to work together as never before, helping to drive reform, strengthen teaching, create better educational options, and improve learning. 

In support of President Obama’s goal for the United States to produce the world’s highest percentage of college graduates by 2020, Secretary Duncan has helped secure increases in the Pell Grant program to boost the number of young Americans attending college and receiving postsecondary degrees. He has begun new efforts to ensure that colleges and universities provide more transparency on graduation, job placement, and student loan default rates. With the income-based repayment program introduced during Secretary Duncan’s tenure, student loan payments are being reduced for college graduates in low-paying jobs, and loans will be forgiven after 10 years for people in certain public service occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters.

Before becoming secretary of education, Secretary Duncan served as the chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), a position he held from June 2001 through December 2008. In that time, he won praise for uniting education reformers, teachers, principals, and business stakeholders behind an aggressive education reform agenda that included opening more than 100 new schools, expanding after-school and summer learning programs, closing down underperforming schools, increasing early childhood and college access, dramatically boosting the caliber of teachers, and building public-private partnerships around a variety of education initiatives. 

Prior to joining CPS, from 1992 to 1998, Secretary Duncan ran the nonprofit education foundation Ariel Education Initiative, which helped fund a college education for a class of inner-city children under the “I Have A Dream” program. He was part of a team that later started a new public elementary school built around a financial literacy curriculum, Ariel Community Academy, which today ranks among the top elementary schools in Chicago. From 1987 to 1991, Secretary Duncan played professional basketball in Australia, where he also worked with children who were wards of the state.

Secretary Duncan graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1987, after majoring in sociology. He was co-captain of Harvard’s basketball team and was named a first team Academic All-American.

Secretary Duncan is married to Karen Duncan, and they have two children who attend public school in Arlington, Va.