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How Biden Could Please the K-12 World by Picking an Education Secretary From Outside It

by Evie Blad, EducationWeek  /   Dec 3, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden has repeatedly promised to appoint an education secretary with public teaching experience, and it has been widely believed he is referring to a former K-12 teacher when he makes that pledge.

But there is an open door for Biden to appoint someone from the higher education sector instead. And a college or university president, particularly one who voices support for public schools, may be preferrable to an outspoken K-12 schools chief for some of his closest allies, like teachers’ unions. That’s particularly true of a school administrator with a history on hot-button issues, like charter schools, some education policy watchers say.

In many instances, Biden’s supporters who have strong views about K-12 policy are as vocal about what they don’t want—broad school improvement initiatives like Race to the Top—as what they do want—dramatic increases in federal spending on education.
Someone like a community college president could answer those resource concerns while taking a more hands-off approach on some issues that caused problems for past education secretaries, said Linda Perlstein, an associate director at the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, who has advocated for an education secretary with college or university experience.

“I don’t know a single [community college president] who would say anything other than the fact that public school is at the core of our democracy and that public school teachers are doing the great and important work to sustain that,” she said. “If you are trying to get at people who understands the value proposition, that person doesn’t have to have taught kindergarten.”

Biden will name his pick for the cabinet role at a particularly precarious moment for federal K-12 education policy. The nation’s schools have been slammed by the dual fiscal and public health crises created by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to questions about issues like state testing, as well as what students, educators, and schools need and who can best deliver it.

But it’s also a critical time for the higher education sector, and many of Biden’s campaign promises centered on issues like college affordability and student debt.

Read the full story at the Education Week website...

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