Commentary: Obama should consider Inez Tennebaum for education post

Now that he's got his economic and national security teams lined up, President-Elect Obama can turn to the "second-tier" Cabinet positions, such as Secretary of Education.

Normally, I wouldn't take all that much interest in the Education job. I don't see education as a proper function of the federal government; it's a state responsibility. And when the feds have gotten involved in K-12, they've generally mucked it up. I'm not a fan of Ronald Reagan, but he did get some things right, and one of them was proposing to do away with the U.S. Department of Education. You'll notice, however, that after all that talk, he didn't actually get rid of it. So the department is there, and somebody is going to run it.

That being the case, I hope the somebody Barack Obama chooses is our own Inez Tenenbaum. At this point you're thinking two things: First, "Does she really have a shot at that?" I don’t know. There are a lot of lists, short and long, floating around, and she's on some and not on others. The Associated Press had her on a short list of five names (which also included Colin Powell) at the end of November, but when they moved the same list on Thursday, she wasn’t on it (nor was Gen. Powell). On the same day, MSNBC posted a long list on its Web site that included her (and Gen. Powell). Other names regularly mentioned include Arne Duncan, who runs Chicago public schools, and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas.

Inez (disclosure here — I call her Inez because her husband, Samuel, is a friend) doesn't make it on David Brooks' short list in his column on the facing page. But we'll see.

Now for the second thing you're thinking, especially if you're one of those who buy into the notion that public schools in South Carolina are irredeemable, and anyone who has ever had anything to do with them is tainted. When I mentioned Inez as a contender for the job the other day, someone who should know better said it would be ironic for two Democratic secretaries in a row to be from South Carolina, since our schools struggle so.

To read the complete column, visit The State.