Biden’s Secretary of Education has yet to be announced. Who is still in the running?

Betsy DeVos
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Photo credit by Michael Vadon.

A list of contenders to replace U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been growing, from teacher union officials to urban school superintendents and other possible picks.

Some names have been floating for awhile, but others are now in consideration, with many public school educators looking forward to the day when DeVos goes out the door. She’s been widely criticized for lack of experience in the position, among other criticisms.

One of the widely-known contenders is Randi Weingarten, president of the nationwide American Federation of Teachers. She recently appeared in a virtual event with First Lady-elect Jill Biden. The meeting was about education policy goals in the incoming Biden administration.

Another is Lily Eskelsen García, who recently stepped down as president of the National Education Association. Jill Biden is a member of the NEA, and both national teacher unions endorsed former vice president Joe Biden during the presidential campaign.

A handful of urban school superintendents are under consideration as well, according to news reports.

They are Janice Jackson, chief of Chicago’s public schools, Sonja Brookins Santelises, head of Baltimore public schools, and Philadelphia superintendent William Hite, are among the names, according to the nonprofit news organization called Chalkbeat.

Arne Duncan, a former Chicago school chief, was a U.S. Secretary of Education under the Obama administration.

Other school superintendents mentioned are Seattle Superintendent Denise Juneau, according to The Seattle Times. And Tony Thurmond, the California state superintendent of public instruction, according to The Washington Post.

Biden’s pick will set the tone for his future education initiatives.

Picking an official from one of the national teacher unions could send a strong message to public school educators and schools.

However, a union-associated Secretary of Education may be difficult to appoint if there is a Republican-majority in the Senate, Education Week notes.

At issue is whether charter schools could impact any decision on the appointment. Charters are public schools, but they’re usually privately-run, and there’s been controversy in some quarters over the mushrooming of charter schools when traditional public schools would like more resources.

Chalkbeat reported that “it’s possible for the choice to be someone who’s worked closely with charter schools while running a big-city school district — rather than someone affiliated with a major teachers union.”

One contender, for sure, is out. That is Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the California State Board of Education. She said she was “not interested in the role” and removed herself from consideration, EdSource reported on Nov. 8.

But she’s a part of Biden’s education transition team, EdSource recently reported. Darling-Hammond also served on Obama’s education transition team.