So who might Mitt Romney pick as his education secretary should he win the November presidential election?
Here’s a list of some of the probable candidates, based on the people that Romney chose to be on his Education Policy Advisory Group, or that his campaign has used as “surrogates” to speak on education, or that are beloved by Republicans as important education reformers. In the latter category would be people such as Michelle Rhee and former Florida governor Jeb Bush and even Joel Klein.
According to campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul, the four people who the campaign has used most often as education surrogates are, in the order she sent them:
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who Republicans have praised for pushing through a sweeping school reform law that allows the state to offer vouchers for private school tuition to more than half of its public school students, expand the number of privately managed charter schools and give letter grades to preschoolers. Under the voucher system’s proposed “accountability plan,” a private school with 39 or fewer voucher students can keep receiving state funds even if students fail to show basic competency in reading, math, social studies and science. Critics call it the biggest assault on public education in any single state.
Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who supported school reform in his state that included merit pay for teachers and alternative certification for teachers.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, who is suddenly in the national spotlight because she gave a well-received speech at the Republican Convention in Tampa. She has pushed education reform in her state along the lines of the so-called “Florida model,” that was pioneered by Bush when he was governor of Florida from 1999-2007, which included initiatives such as assigning letter grades to schools based on student standardized test scores and ending social promotion.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who gave the keynote address at the GOP convention Tuesday night, has pushed education reform in his state, seeking to end teacher tenure, institute merit pay, revamp teacher evaluation and start a voucher program. (He appointed a Democrat, Chris Cerf, as his state education chief, and Cerf himself is mentioned as a possible Romney education secretary.)
Then there are the nearly 20 people that Romney named to his Education Policy Advisory Group, most of whom wouldn’t likely be considered as an education secretary, although a few might.
One is Nina Rees, who worked in the Bush administration as assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement at the U.S. Department of Education from 2002-06, and is now senior vice president for strategic initiatives at Knowledge Universe.
Another strong possibility from the advisory group: Tom Luna, Idaho’s prominent superintendent of public instruction and president of the Council of Chief State School Officers. Luna has pushed through a controversial reform program that eliminates teacher tenure and restricts the collective bargaining rights of teachers. He also is making it a requirement for every student in Idaho to take online courses to graduate from high school. Luna worked as a senior adviser to Rod Paige when Paige was George W. Bush’s education secretary. (Paige is also a member of Romney’s advisory group.)
But there are other school reformers who could be tapped by Romney, assuming he doesn’t mind having superstar reformers in his midst.
Rhee, of course, is probably the most visible school reformer in the country. After running Washington D.C. public schools for 3 1/2 years, she started the StudentsFirst lobbying group to promote her brand of school reform and reduce the power of teachers unions. Though said to be a Democrat, she has worked hand in hand with Republican governors.
If you ask Republicans who should be education secretary, the person you most often here about is Jeb Bush, who is considered a guru to many governors on standardized test-based school reform, having established the “Florida Model” that includes:
l Giving schools a grade A through F based on state student standardized test scores.
l High-stakes testing
l Setting new requirements for promotion to the next grade and high school graduation
l Performance pay for educators
l Teacher credentialing changes
l Expanded school choice in the form of charter schools, virtual education and vouchers.
Though Bush hasn’t been governor since 2007, he still has strong influence in Florida and beyond through two foundations he founded after he left the governorship, most significantly his Foundation for Excellence in Education.
And let’s not forget Joel Klein, former chancellor of New York City’s public schools, who now works for Rupert Murdoch. Klein, a Democrat, appeals to Republicans for his school reform policies that jibe in many ways with Bush’s.
Romney could use this post to attempt to show “bipartisanship” by giving the post to a Democrat such as Rhee or Klein without having to worry about their policies.
There are other possibilities too, but this is a good starting list.
Who did I miss?
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