Obama’s new pick for Education secretary is Arne Duncan, head of Chicago Public Schools. He’s been pushing for Chicago to start their first gay high school. Not kidding.
Obama is going to get a lot of flack over this pick from social conservative groups and it wouldn’t surprise me if Republican Senators raise a fuss about this during his confirmation hearing. Mark my words. Read below from The Chicago Tribune:
The Chicago Public Schools' first high school designed for gay, lesbian and transgender teens is among 20 new schools recommended to the school board today by CPS Chief Arne Duncan.
The proposed schools range from technology-focused high schools to the School for Social Justice Pride Campus, which officials said would cater to but not focus exclusively on gay youth.
Backers said they envision a small high school offering a college-preparatory curriculum in which students would take four years each of English and math, three years each of foreign languages and science, as well as fine arts and physical education. It would be a performance school, meaning it would have the same staffing and oversight requirements as other district schools.
The announcement of the schools, which are expected to open in the fall of 2009 and 2010, took place at the Chicago International Charter School's Ralph Ellison Campus, 1817 W. 80th St. Public hearings on the proposed schools are expected before the Board of Education votes on them Oct. 22.
"If you look at national studies, you see gay and lesbian students with high dropout rates...Studies show they are disproportionately homeless," Duncan said. "I think there is a niche there we need to fill."
Supporters have said the Pride Campus would help students find a safe school environment because studies have shown that gay youth are at a greater risk of dropping out of school and abusing drugs and alcohol, and are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide. A 2003 district survey shows that gay and lesbian youths are three times more likely to miss school because they don't feel safe.
Opponents have called the move a misuse of public funds. At a recent public hearing on the proposal, some gay rights advocates have said the move would segregate these students and said the district should work more on fostering acceptance by mainstream students, teachers and other school officials.
More on all of this here, here and here.
Look, I know how this will be spun. Some will say this isn’t really a “gay high school.” It’s really more a safe place and an educational environment that will cater towards gays and lesbians. But folks, let’s be real here. It’s a high school for gay students. Plain and simple.
While the idea of a gay high school may be troubling for some, the problem for Obama is that a pick like this doesn’t portray him in such a centrist way. It gives the impression that he’s nominating wild liberals to his Cabinet.
Arne Duncan may have the total package and be a great Education secretary, but pushing ideas like a gay high school will make social conservatives wonder what he will be pushing next.