People: Chief Duncan Message-Master Leaving The Team
Peter "Cowboy" Cunningham is leaving the Duncan education team and heading back to Chicago, according to an email sent last night. He doesn't say what he's going to do but I could imagine him doing something with David Axelrod's new University of Chicago Institute of Politics.
Cunningham oversaw a four-year period in which Duncan started out and remained a White House favorite. There were only a few mis-steps -- the flareup over the Obama back to school speeches, the infamous Duncan line about New Orleans having benefitted from Hurricane Katrina. Cunningham oversaw the quick arrival and departure of PG County's John White as press secretary, and kept Justin Josh Hamilton and Sandra Abreveya in some sort of balance as co-press secretaries.
A colorful-for-Washington character who loves live music and always seems to do his job without taking it too seriously (or necessarily believing what he's selling), Cunningham first came to education "fame" when he coined "Renaissance 2010," the Duncan inititiave in Chicago that was theoretically a big plan about opening more schools but was really a small plan about closing them -- then pulled off much the same trick in Washington, convincing credulous journalists and then state officials that Race to the Top was going to be worth it despite its obvious flaws (lack of funding, a straight removal of the charter cap, ridiculous timelines).