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The US Secretary of Education is the head of the Department of Education, the federal agency that oversees matters related to education in the United States, from kindergarten to colleges and universities. Because education in the United States is not highly centralized, as it is in many other nations, the scope of the secretary's duties and powers is fairly limited, and the department itself is actually rather controversial. Some conservatives believe that the Department of Education represents unreasonable interference on the part of the federal government, and they would like to see it dismantled.
ED, as it is known colloquially, was established in 1979 when President Jimmy Carter split the then-Department of Health, Education, and Welfare into two separate agencies, creating two Cabinet level positions: the US Secretary of Education, and the US Secretary of Health and Human Services. ED is the smallest cabinet-level agency, with far fewer employees and programs than other agencies at the same rank in government.
Each new president is responsible for appointing a Secretary of Education, with the president typically choosing someone who will support his or her goals for American education. The selection is subject to a Senate confirmation hearing, allowing senators and the people of the United States by extension a chance to reject candidates who might be perceived as unfit. As a cabinet-level official, the Secretary of Education is in line for the succession to the United States presidency, although since the position is ranked 16, it is unlikely that an Education secretary will ever be forced to step into the office.
As a member of the presidential cabinet, the US Secretary of Education is responsible for discussing policy matters relating to education with the president, and for proposing policies which will shape American education. He or she also keeps the president informed about issues in the American education system, ranging from dropout rates to the changing demographics of US colleges.
One of the most important roles of the Department of Education is in the keeping of statistics pertaining to education so that this data can be used to assess the state of education in the country and to identify areas that need improvement. ED also hosts the Department of Federal Student Aid, which provides financial assistance to college students, along with departments that deal with things like special education, English language learners, migrant education, and civil rights in the education field.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the main responsibilities of the US Secretary of Education?
The US Secretary of Education is primarily responsible for overseeing the Department of Education and executing federal policies related to education. They manage federal funding for education, ensure equal access to education, and focus on improving the quality of schools. The Secretary also advises the President on education policies and can propose legislation to Congress aimed at advancing the nation's educational standards and achievements.
How is the US Secretary of Education selected?
The US Secretary of Education is appointed by the President of the United States and must be confirmed by the Senate. This process involves a nomination by the President, followed by hearings and a vote in the Senate. The Secretary serves at the pleasure of the President and is part of the President's Cabinet, which is a group of the most senior appointed officers of the executive branch of the federal government.
What qualifications are typically required for the US Secretary of Education?
While there are no specific qualifications mandated by law for the US Secretary of Education, the position typically requires a deep understanding of the American education system, experience in educational leadership or policy, and the ability to manage a large federal agency. Past Secretaries have often held advanced degrees and have had significant experience either as educators, administrators, or policy makers in the field of education.
Can the US Secretary of Education influence local school curricula?
The US Secretary of Education does not have direct authority to dictate local school curricula, as education in the United States is largely decentralized with primary control resting at the state and local levels. However, through federal funding and regulatory measures, the Department of Education can incentivize states and school districts to adopt certain educational standards or programs that align with federal objectives.
What has been a significant initiative led by the US Secretary of Education?
A significant initiative led by the US Secretary of Education was the "Race to the Top" program, launched during the Obama administration under Secretary Arne Duncan. This competitive grant program encouraged states to adopt educational reforms in areas such as increasing teacher effectiveness, implementing rigorous standards, and using data to inform decisions. It awarded $4.35 billion in grants and was a key part of the administration's education strategy, according to the U.S. Department of Education.