According to sources close to the Chancellor, while the position of Education Secretary initially sounded appealing to him, Mr. Klein began to have reservations as he came to realize that the President-elect’s policies would constrain him from carrying out the sort of reforms that he has instituted in New York. The Chancellor was said to feel that his reforms could more likely be carried out on a national level under a leader such as Mr. Rakhmon, who is known for ruthlessly enforcing idiosyncratic decrees, and whose election was “widely dismissed as a farce”. Ironically, back in 2007 the Tajik strongman was tapped to swap positions with Chancellor Klein, but the move was derailed when riots swept Tajikistan in protest.
The Chancellor apparently began having second thoughts about the Cabinet position when he heard of Mr. Obama’s plan to close the US terrorist detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. Mr. Klein has maintained similar facilities, popularly known as “rubber rooms”, in NY City, where teachers are held each school day, sometimes for years, without knowing the charges against them. The Chancellor had reportedly anticipated that as Education Secretary, he would have use of Guantanamo Bay as a sort of national “rubber room” to intern recalcitrant teachers. Not only would the Guantanamo closing be a major blow to the Chancellor’s plans, but it made him wonder if perhaps Mr. Obama’s other education policies might also be impediments to Mr. Klein’s concept of national education reform.
Mr. Klein was then said to have looked at Mr. Obama’s campaign website to read his ideas about education. What he found were statements like, “Obama and Biden believe teachers should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests,” and “Obama and Biden will also improve NCLB's accountability system so that we are supporting schools that need improvement, rather than punishing them.”
As the Chancellor read on, he became more and more convinced that Mr. Rakhmon’s policies, which like those of Chancellor Klein and Mayor Bloomberg include a ban on cell phones in schools, are far more compatible with his than Mr. Obama’s. And when Mr. Rakhmon assured him that, “We know how to deal with ‘entrenched interests’ like parents and teachers”; and “When we say ‘drill and kill’, they know we we really mean it”, Mr. Klein decided that Tajikistan was the place to truly make his mark on education reform.