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Past Secretaries of Education

After last night's hearing with nominee DeVos, I decided to research past education secretaries. Senator Alexander talked a lot about "precedent" when it came to procedures regarding the HELP Committee.

Let us remember that the first education secretary was appointed in 1979. That's the same year that Congress created the department under Jimmy Carter. This is also the same department that Ronald Reagan promised to abolish.

Even the first education secretary had experience in government. Shirley M. Hufstedler was both a federal and state appeals court judge. I'm going to say that because of that experience, she's probably familiar with law and how laws work. As we saw last night, when Betsy DeVos was redirected a question because her answer implied that states could choose to implement federal law or not, she might need a refresher.

Then we had Terrel Bell, who was a high school teacher, bus driver, and served in the Marines. Again, a long list of public service and experience. Heck, he even had a Ph.D. in education.

William Bennett had a variety of degrees, including law and philosophy. All of my disagreements with many of his political views aside, he directed the National Humanities Center and chaired the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Lauro Cavazos served under Reagan and H.W. Bush. He was on the faculty of several colleges, and had served as dean. I'm going to say this guy at least understood higher education in some way. Let's also not forget that he had multiple degrees.

Even Senator Alexander, the chair of the HELP Committee, served as president of the University of Tennessee. He also has degrees from Vanderbilt and NYU. I have a hunch that he probably hadn't read Vanderbilt's landmark study about merit pay and teachers (hint: it doesn't work), but I am going to trust that he has. He even served as governor before secretary of education.

Richard Riley served as education secretary under President Clinton. He served as governor of South Carolina (I'll give out a separate shout out to S.C. here because their new reading standards actually call for students to ENJOY reading -- something that's missing from the CCSS). During his time as governor, he worked to increase funding for schools.

Rod Paige was the first education secretary under George W. Bush. His parents were teachers, and he even has a Ph.D. in physical education. And, get this, he actually taught. He was even a dean of the College of Education at Texas Southern University.

After Paige resigned, Bush appointed Margaret Spellings. She worked for the Texas Association of School Boards. (As a member of the Michigan Association of School Boards, I can say that organizations like this provide helpful information to boards of education.) She also held a couple of different positions with Austin Community College. Note: Experience.

Arne Duncan, appointed by President Obama, had a father who taught psychology at the University of Chicago. His mother runs a daycare center. He has at least served as CEO of Chicago Public Schools. Heck, he even played basketball at Harvard. If we went by that alone, which DeVos did boast about her mentoring experience in Grand Rapids, Duncan is infinitely more qualified.

And then there's John King. I'm not sure who was disliked more by teachers' unions, but at least King has a master's degree from Teachers College, taught, and was a principal. So we can't even say that the Democrats' performance last night was because they pal around with unions.

So, if we look at all of the past education secretaries, at minimum they have either served in public office or have been involved in education. And this involvement goes beyond being a voice for "parent choice" or charter schools.


  1. The Secretary is a great American. She has given President Trump the State of Michigan. Great donator and was rewarded, I see nothing other than true concern and want the absolute best for all children of the United States. Making sure the kids are not brainwashed with democratic propaganda.

  2. The Secretary is a great American. She has given President Trump the State of Michigan. Great donator and was rewarded, I see nothing other than true concern and want the absolute best for all children of the United States. Making sure the kids are not brainwashed with democratic propaganda.


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