In May of 2009, he personally interceded with the Citizens Union to persuade them to endorse mayoral control without any checks and balances -- so that Bloomberg could continue to fire his appointees on the Panel for Educational Policy at will -- the opposite of what anyone concerned with good government or democracy should espouse. The organization had previously voted to endorse fixed terms for mayoral appointees, so that the Mayor couldn't summarily dismiss board members who disagreed with him, as Bloomberg had notoriously done when they differed with his decision to hold back third graders on the basis of test scores. Duncan followed up with a letter to the Citizens Union, in which he argued that putting any limits on mayoral control could “turn back the clock and halt progress” and have “profoundly negative consequences for New York City’s students.”
As a result, the organization changed its position on this issue, and mayoral control was renewed without any amendment on the authority of one man to determine the fate of 1.1 million students without any checks and balances.. After the NY Post ran a series of articles full of illusory claims aiming to show the great improvement under mayoral control, the Legislature voted to retain it. Arne Duncan then followed up by praising the NY Post series as "thoughtful" and thanked the paper for its "leadership", even though these articles simply regurgitated the spurious statistics provided by the city's press office.
GothamSchools (now Chalkbeat) ran a story entitled the Fruitful Alliance of Arne Duncan and Rupert Murdoch, pointing out that "New York City newspapers have a proud tradition of waging campaigns both on and off the editorial page, and then congratulating themselves when they hit their marks. But having a cabinet member for a sitting president join the cheering is more unusual." Duncan's unalloyed praise for the Mayor was subsequently plastered all over Bloomberg's copious campaign literature, which every voter received at least ten times.
Duncan's reign of error was inherently political, and he never hesitated from intruding into NYC politics or taking positions contrary to the priorities of public school parents or to what research shows really helps kids succeed. He will not be missed. About his replacement, John King? That's a whole other story!