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Education secretary defended

An adviser to President Obama is defending Education Secretary Arne Duncan, whose oversight of competitive high school admissions when he ran Chicago's public schools is under investigation.

David Axelrod, a political consultant from Chicago before joining the Obama administration, called Duncan "a guy of extraordinary integrity."

As Chicago schools chief, Duncan oversaw an office that kept a list of elected officials and others who sought coveted spots in the city's selective high schools, said Peter Cunningham, Duncan's spokesman.

The Chicago school system's Office of the Inspector General is investigating whether influential citizens circumvented the normal admissions process to gain entrance to the schools.

"I'm quite certain that whatever he did was appropriate," Axelrod, senior adviser to Obama, said Tuesday in an interview in Washington. "He's a guy of extraordinary integrity."

The Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday that politically connected citizens made up three-quarters of those on the list, with the rest being nonconnected parents, among them those who sought spaces for disabled children.

Duncan's staff then called principals to see if room could be made for those students, the newspaper reported.

The school system didn't pressure principals to accept these students, and many didn't get in, Cunningham said.

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