Education Secretary Arne Duncan told Next America his family's move back to Chicago had been planned but was harder than he anticipated. US Department of Education/Flickr

Less than a week after announcing his decision to step down, Education Secretary Arne Duncan joined the man who will step into the role, John B. King Jr., at an elementary school in Southwest Washington to announce a new initiative to combat chronic truancy

Speaking to Next America after the event, Duncan said of his decision to head back to Chicago, "Well, my family moved back this summer, and it's just been really, really hard. We have a little guy. ... It was just so hard."

"I love this work, I love this team," he continued. "I'm really sad, but I'm really at peace with it, too."

Asked whether his family's move back to his hometown had been planned all along, Duncan replied, pausing to choose his words carefully: "Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's complicated. ... My wife got a job offer to go back. She hasn't worked full-time since... With the kids... it was the right time to transition them for their schooling, so that precipitated it. But then it just was really hard." 

The secretary said that, ultimately, it was thinking about what his parents gave up for his family that cemented the decision. 

"The thing I kept thinking about is my parents sacrificed everything for my sister and brother and I, and I was asking my kids to sacrifice everything for me, and it just didn't feel right. A couple more months and we could have gutted it out, but 16 more months just felt not fair. They moved back this summer, and we knew it would be hard, but it's just been harder than we [expected.]" 

This article is part of our Next America: Higher Education project, which is supported by grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation.

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