Former Teachers’ Union Boss Eyes Biden Top Education Post

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia speaks at a news conference on American labor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. Trump said on Twitter that the driver in Tuesday's attack "came into our country through what is called the 'Diversity Visa Lottery Program,' a Chuck Schumer …
Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

The former president of the nation’s largest teachers’ union is making a pitch to become U.S. Secretary of Education should Joe Biden become president.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia (pictured), who headed the National Education Association (NEA) up until this summer, is looking to Hispanic groups and even Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN) to help her effort to become the next education secretary.

Garcia currently serves as secretary of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and is courting members of the caucus to support her bid to become the first Hispanic U.S. education secretary, a report at Politico noted.

The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of over 40 Hispanic groups who support García, plan to deliver a letter, urging Biden to choose the former teachers’ union boss, later this week.

“Eskelsen García is the ideal candidate to lead the U.S. Department of Education in a new direction from the previous destructive practices and policies of the Trump Administration,” wrote Hispanic leaders Thomas A. Saenz and Antonio Flores in the letter, and added:

Eskelsen García has been a particular champion of the rights and interests of immigrant students, from working to guarantee meaningful access for undocumented students to all aspects of education to ensuring that the rights of all English learners to a complete and equitable education are respected. This history is particularly critical following the current Education Secretary, who once suggested to Congress that school districts have a choice about whether to provide an education to undocumented students, contradicting a clear and enforceable 1982 Supreme Court decision in Plyler v. Doe.

Retiring chairman of the Senate committee that oversees education, Alexander was gleeful when he joined with committee ranking member Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) in 2015 to craft the massive federal legislation called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind.

Former President Barack Obama signed ESSA into law almost immediately in December 2015, calling the “bipartisan bill signing” a “Christmas miracle.”

Alexander and Murray praised each other continuously on the floor of the Senate prior to the vote on the conference bill, extolling the virtues of “bipartisanship” and “compromise.”

ESSA codified into federal law a preschool program and continued the federal mandate of annual testing in grades 3 through 8 and then again in high school. The law requires school districts to publicly report student test scores according to race, income, ethnicity, disability, and English-language usage. In addition, though Alexander claimed the law stopped the federal government from coercing states into using the Common Core standards, ESSA still requires the Education Secretary to approve state standards.

Alexander’s chief of staff told Politico the senator’s office has provided Garcia with “advice on how to get bipartisan support.”

“There’s a good argument to be made for Lily,” said David Cleary.

Biden’s selection of a former national teachers’ union president as education secretary would serve to underscore the union bosses’ contempt for Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos, whom the unions viewed as an enemy of public schools because of her support for school choice.

Other teachers’ unions as well are asking Biden to choose “one of our own” to take the nation’s top education post.

Chicago Teachers’ Union President Jesse Sharkey signed onto an open letter sent to the former vice president Tuesday from 16 local teachers’ unions, WTTW News reported.

“What we’ve seen from the outgoing administration is contempt — not care for the institution of education, or the people who comprise it,” the letter states. “Public school educators, and the families and communities we serve, need someone fighting for us, not against us.”


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