In Washington, when a new president is elected, it sparks weeks of feverish ruminating on each personnel decision, with breathless discussions of everything from high-profile cabinet appointments to who should (or will) be the Bureau of Migratory Waterfowl’s next deputy assistant secretary for planning and policy. All of this tends to invest these jobs with more glamor than they probably deserve—since they’re mostly marathons of meetings, glad-handing, budgeting, damage control, and bureaucratic oversight. But that’s how Washington works.
And the truth is that these appointments really do matter. As the old saw has it: “Personnel is policy.” It’s the appointees in the various departments who will ultimately shape the Trump administration’s educational priorities and agenda. This has never been truer than now, given how much of Trump’s educational platform is a blank slate—or one filled with only the broadest of notional directives (e.g. school choice good, Common Core bad).
I’ll be clear: I don’t know who will populate the Trump administration’s Department of Education. I do have a few thoughts on some of the folks I’d like to see in the mix, though—and I figured I’d share them with you, if only so that fewer folks feel obliged to inquire. Please understand that this isn’t an exhaustive, careful, or complete list. After all, I have no particular thoughts, for instance, on the commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration. It’s more an eclectic mix of some names I’d like to see considered. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some names that I’d have included if I’d given this more thought, and it’s obviously limited to individuals who I’m guessing/hoping might be willing to serve in this choice-friendly, Common Core-skeptical, Republican administration. I’ve also omitted some of the most outspoken NeverTrumpers (like John Bailey and Mike Petrilli), for obvious reasons.
Keep in mind that I have no juice in any of this and there’s no reason to expect anyone to listen to me. But so it goes. With all that in mind, here are some of the names I’d love to see considered for a dozen of the top jobs (I’m not bothering with bios or current positions; if you don’t know who someone is, just ride the google):
U.S. Secretary of Education: Mitch Daniels, Scott Walker, Bill Evers, Gerard Robinson
Deputy Secretary: David Cleary, Brian Jones, Lisa Graham Keegan, Larry Arnn
Under Secretary: Nina Rees, Paul Pastorek, Jim Peyser, Vic Klatt, Hanna Skandera
Assistant Secretary – Civil Rights: Joshua Dunn, Greg Lukianoff, Robert Scott
Assistant Secretary – Communications and Outreach: Jenna Talbot, Joy Pullmann, Holly Kuzmich
Assistant Secretary – Elementary and Secondary Education: Dwight Jones, Robert Pondiscio, Tom Luna, Matt Ladner, Jim Stergios
Assistant Secretary – Legislation and Congressional Affairs: Lindsay Fryer, D’arcy Philps, Lindsey Burke
Assistant Secretary – Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development: Peter Oppenheim, Brad Thomas, Andy Smarick, Robert Enlow
Assistant Secretary – Postsecondary Education: Andrew Kelly, Jason Delisle, James Bergeron
Assistant Secretary – Special Education and Rehabilitative Services: Joe Siedlecki, Mike McShane, Max Eden
Assistant Secretary – Vocational and Adult Education: Tom Stewart, Tony Bennett
Institute of Education Sciences – Director: Patrick Wolf, Jay Greene, Caroline Hoxby, Martin West, Rick Hanushek
— Frederick Hess
Frederick Hess is director of education policy studies at AEI and an executive editor at Education Next. This first appeared on Rick Hess Straight Up.