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Biden Transition Team Reflects Support for Public Education, Teachers and Equity

President-elect Joe Biden has named an education transition team made up of 20 education experts.

The transition team's job isn't to write Biden's plan for education; his campaign has already handled that. Rather, it's to sort out what's to be done with the U.S. Department of Education. Expected to be quickly dismantled: DeVos' continuous emphasis on using public funding to support alternatives to public school, particularly private and religious schools.

Nor will the team be putting forth candidates to replace DeVos as secretary of the agency. Top suggestion Linda Darling-Hamilton, who leads the transition effort, recently said she wasn't interested in the job.

What will they be doing? According to reporting by the Washington Post, the transition team will have "subgroups" undertaking different areas: K-12, higher education and development of a response to COVID-19 that would enable schools to reopen safely.

Most members of the team have been involved in the Department of Ed as part of either the Clinton or Obama administrations. That past experience will come in handy, one anonymous source told the Washington Post, to "figure out what damage [DeVos] did and then stand up a department."

Four participants come from teacher and school staff unions, three from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and one from the National Education Association (NEA).

Education organizations focused on student success, especially in underserved populations, is highly covered, with inclusion of representatives from Alliance for Excellent Education (high school); The Institute for College Access & Success (higher education), The Education Trust (Pre-K-12 through higher ed) and Open Education Global (higher ed and lifelong learning). Also joining is the head of Teach Plus, which is immersed in teacher development initiatives.

They're joined by Darling-Hammond, president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute, and her colleague Jessica Cardichon. The institute does research to improve education policy and practice.

The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, has representation, as does UnidosUS, which advocates for the Latinx population.

Ruthanne Buck, founder of SquadBuck Consulting, who served as a senior advisor to U.S. Secretaries of Education in the Obama administration, is part of the team, as is Jim Brown, former chief of staff for U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.

Other members include Norma Cantú,a civil rights lawyer and educator from the University of Texas at Austin; Bob Kim, a civil rights lawyer and investigator at CUNY's John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Paul Monteiro, chief of staff at Howard University (alma mater of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris); and Pedro Rivera, recently named president of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.

The final member is Keia Cole, currently leading digital experience projects at insurance and investment firm MassMutual and a member of the company's foundation, but formerly a member of the Department of Ed during the Obama administration.

The full list of Biden transition team members is:

  • Linda Darling-Hammond, Learning Policy Institute;
  • Ary Amerikaner, The Education Trust;
  • Beth Antunez, American Federation of Teachers;
  • Jim Brown, Former chief of staff for former U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.;
  • Ruthanne Buck, SquadBuck Consulting;
  • Norma Cantú, University of Texas at Austin, School of Law;
  • Jessica Cardichon, Learning Policy Institute;
  • Keia Cole, MassMutual;
  • Lindsay Dworkin, Alliance for Excellent Education;
  • Donna Harris-Aikens, National Education Association;
  • Kristina Ishmael, Open Education Global;
  • Bob Kim, John Jay College of Criminal Justice;
  • James Kvaal, The Institute for College Access & Success;
  • Peggy McLeod, UnidosUS;
  • Paul Monteiro, Howard University;
  • Pedro Rivera, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology;
  • Roberto Rodriguez, Teach Plus;
  • Shital Shah, American Federation of Teachers;
  • Marla Ucelli-Kashyap, American Federation of Teachers; and
  • Emma Vadehra, The Century Foundation.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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