Last Saturday, Louisiana voters backed the GOP and implicitly criticized the president, by no less than 56 percent of the vote in the U.S. Senate race.
But today, one of President Barack Obama’s top appointees is certain of a warm welcome in New Orleans when he addresses the annual luncheon of the Bureau of Governmental Research.
That is because Arne Duncan, head of the U.S. Department of Education, has been a terrific proponent of reform and improvement in Orleans schools.
His backing of higher academic standards and innovations in how schools are run has hardly been limited to New Orleans, of course. Reformers across the state and across party lines are among the Duncan fans, but it is in the city that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina and subsequent flooding that he helped to foster the renaissance in independent public schools.
There is a greater variety of educational choices for students in New Orleans and a new model of how to organize education in a community. Is it without its problems? Hardly. But Duncan’s role has been vital.
And like several other top officials of Obama’s administration, he helped to resolve issues that had bedeviled the state, federal and city relationships after the 2005 storms. Duncan’s leadership in stripping away a red-tape straitjacket allowed the federal block grants that have rebuilt or refurbished dozens of New Orleans schools.
When Shaun Donovan was secretary of Housing and Urban Development, he shepherded new affordable housing and oversaw the return of the Housing Authority of New Orleans to local control. When Janet Napolitano headed Homeland Security, she cut the bureaucratic knots that had kept in dispute major rebuilding projects, including the state’s reimbursement for damages to the old Charity Hospital. When Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman, headed Transportation, he expanded streetcars in the city.
All of these are huge benefits to the city and to the state. These appointees stuck with us, as Duncan’s frequent visits to the city demonstrate.
A president takes the blame for what happens on his watch, but we believe several of Obama’s top aides have served New Orleans and Louisiana well.