Duncan
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1975-1989.
  • Oregon State Senator, 1997-2003.

About Superintendent Duncan

Verne Duncan has “always [been] interested in what was going on.” With a family involved in state politics he had exposure to “what was going on” at an early age. Duncan’s family always prioritized education. With his early work as a teacher and school superintendent, Duncan’s decision to run for the office of Oregon State Superintendent of Public Instruction was a natural fit.

Duncan served in that capacity from 1975-1989 and oversaw major changes in school funding and focus during his tenure. A major goal for Duncan was moving Oregon to adopt an education model suited for the 20th century rather than the 19th century. An ongoing budget crisis throughout the state tempered this forward-looking approach and hit education funding particularly hard.

Duncan’s time in office also covered some unique situations in education in Oregon’s history. The most prominent of which was the clash between the religious cult of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and their running of public schools in Antelope, Oregon. Another case during that same time period also involved religious freedom. That of a Sikh teacher to be allowed to wear her religious clothing while teaching at a public school in Eugene.

In 1997, Governor Kitzhaber appointed Verne Duncan to fill a vacant Oregon Senate seat. Later, citizens elected him to the seat and he served through 2003. During his time in the legislature, he served as assistant majority leader and a member of the Ways and Means, Government Affairs, Judiciary and Legislative committees. 

In his retirement, Duncan served on a number of boards, including the Early Head Start Center and Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. The North Clackamas School District honored Duncan’s legacy by naming an elementary school after him in 2008.

– Interview recorded February 4, 2016