Five oft-overlooked facts about Barack Obama and education

Technically, President Obama’s second term starts tomorrow at noon EST. Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in the president privately at the White House, perhaps as an extra rehearsal to make sure the public “swearing-in” on Monday goes off without a hitch. Below are five overlooked facts about Barack Obama and education:

  • Barack Obama was a college “swirler,” or someone who attended multiple colleges. Unlike most adults who swirl among multiple colleges and universities, Obama attended two elite private institutions, Occidental College in California and Columbia University in New York. But like millions of other Americans, the president transferred between institutions.
  • Neither Barack Obama nor his children have ever attended public schools in the United States. Obama attended several schools in Indonesia, then a private school in Hawaii, and two private undergraduate institutions before Harvard Law School. His children attended the University of Chicago Lab School and now attend Sidwell Friends School.
  • The White House website does not have a single speech where President Obama discusses desegregation in schools since 1960. If you search the White House site for the word “desegregation,” you can find about two dozen entries, but none is a speech where the president discusses segregation in today’s schools, or schools any time in the past half-century.
  • Arne Duncan is the fourth consecutive Education Secretary with previous political connections to his or her appointing president, a streak now stretching over 20 years. Duncan and Obama are close from Obama’s Chicago years. Clinton’s education secretary was Richard Riley (1993-2001), who was governor in South Carolina while Clinton was governor in Arkansas. Rod Paige (2001-2005) was superintendent in Houston for George W. Bush’s entire time as governor in Texas, and Margaret Spellings (2005-2009) was a member of Bush’s inner circle in both Texas and Washington.
  • Barack Obama is the third consecutive president to have pre-presidential experience with modern education reform. In Chicago, Obama was the founding board chair of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. Before him, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were both governors claiming a track record in education reform policy.
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