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Who's Who in the U.S. Department of Education

Jan 14, 2011

With a budget of more than $63 billion, the U.S. Department of Education is responsible for funding and administering programs that 'promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.' But who are the important players in the Education Department? Here are three at the top:

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Department of Education Arne Duncan

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been a polarizing figure since his time as CEO of Chicago Public Schools. Appointed to that post in 2001, Duncan implemented a number of education reforms in the city. These reforms included placing greater emphasis on standardized tests and closing 'failing' neighborhood schools in favor of charter schools.

The programs Duncan implemented have garnered him both acclaim and criticism. Some educators consider him an insightful administrator who gets results by bringing people together. Others believe his reform measures have done little to improve schools, and they are critical of his attempts to institute what they consider to be a business-oriented model to public schools.

Duncan's perceived success among reform-minded educators was important toward him securing his current position of Secretary, in which he is responsible for developing the strategic vision for the Department of Education. In his post, Duncan has continued in the direction of reform with programs like Race to the Top, an initiative where states compete for federal education funding based on their willingness to implement reforms.

Department of Education Tony Miller

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Deputy Secretary Tony Miller

The role of the Deputy Secretary is to serve as chief executive officer of the Department of Education. This person is responsible for overseeing K-12 education policies, including controversial No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation.

Given that NCLB is all about accountability, it is fitting that much of current Deputy Secretary Tony Miller's experience has been in the private sector. The second-ranking official in the Education Department worked in a private investment firm prior to his current position. And in limited work with the Los Angeles Unified School District, he was involved in making budget decisions and monitoring student performance.

Department of Education Martha Kanter

Under Secretary Martha J. Kanter

As Under Secretary at the Department of Education, Martha J. Kanter is responsible for developing and overseeing programs and polices that relate to postsecondary education and education. A significant focus of her role as Under Secretary is administration of the federal student aid program, which allows individuals with limited economic means to attend higher ed institutions.

Kanter has a distinguished background that includes extensive experience as a community college chancellor. She is therefore an appropriate advocate for President Barack Obama's vision for more programs that support community colleges that help meet national educational objectives.

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