New Faces in Federal Policy Leadership for Education and Education Research
New Faces in Federal Policy Leadership for Education and Education Research
New Faces in Federal Policy Leadership for Education and Education Research

February 2013

The November election established that President Obama will serve four more years, and also that Republican control of the House and Democratic control of the Senate will continue until at least 2014. Nevertheless, important changes in the leadership of congressional committees and federal agencies will affect education and science research policy in the coming years.

In the White House

Within the White House, there is a new director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), who will have much impact on the resolution of the budget crisis and also in establishing regulations to direct funding by federal agencies, including research agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the Institute of Education Sciences. Even closer to the president, Denis McDonough, an international specialist, has replaced Jack Lew, a financial specialist, as chief of staff.

There have been some arrivals and departures among White House officials most familiar to members of AERA. Prior to the election, Cecilia Munoz replaced Melody Barnes as head of the Domestic Policy Council. Zakiya Smith, a frequent participant in AERA briefings, was Obama’s senior policy advisor on higher education but has moved to the Lumina Foundation; a successor has not been named. Miriam Calderon, a senior policy advisor in HHS, has been assigned to the Domestic Policy Council to specialize in pre-K issues. Roberto Rodriguez, a familiar face at education research events, will continue as special assistant to the president for education policy.

The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), now over 30 years old, was created to provide sound scientific advice to the president and his key advisors. John Holdren will continue to serve as director. Two staff well known to researchers who are continuing in OSTP are Ken Koizumi and Philip Rubin. Koizumi, formerly of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is now assistant director for federal research and development; Rubin is the assistant director for social, behavioral, and economic sciences.

Senate Authorizing Committee

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) will continue to serve as education/health chair for both appropriations and authorization. On the authorizing committee, Harkin will now work with ranking member Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Alexander is a former secretary of education, having served under President George H. W. Bush. Former ranking member Michael Enzi (R-WY) was term-limited as ranking member but will continue to serve on the committee. Harkin, long a key supporter of research in special education, has announced that he will retire in 2014.

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

The Senate Commerce Committee is responsible for federal programs in science, including those in the National Science Foundation. The full committee will continue to be chaired by John Rockefeller (D-WV); John Thune (R-SD) is the ranking member, replacing retired senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson. The committee has lost the services of two prominent members: Daniel Inouye, who passed away prior to the election, and John Kerry, who has become secretary of state.

Education researchers will work primarily with the Subcommittee on Science and Space. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) will continue to chair the subcommittee and Ted Cruz (R-TX) will replace Senator John Boozman (R-AK) as ranking member. Senator Boozman has become ranking member on the Subcommittee for Agriculture and Forestry. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is a member of the Science and Space Committee.

Senate Appropriations Committee

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) will replace the late Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) as chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) will be ranking member.

The Subcommittee on Labor-H appropriations will continue to be chaired by Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Richard Shelby (R-AL) will replace Thad Cochran (R-MS) as the ranking member. Senator Cochran had reached the term limit adopted by Republicans for chairs of committees.

Senate Budget Committee
Senator Patti Murray (D-WA) is the new chair of the Senate Budget Committee, replacing retired Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND); Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) will continue as ranking member. In this committee, as in several others, the dynamic that results when the chair and ranking members reflect dramatically different policy preferences will provide a challenge to legislative collaboration. For example, Murray holds progressive views regarding education and education funding and is regarded as one of the most liberal Democrats; Sessions is among the most conservative Republicans.

House Appropriations Committee

The full Committee on Appropriations will continue to be chaired by Harold Rogers (R-KY), but the new ranking member will be Nita Lowey (D-NY), who becomes the highest ranking woman in the history of the committee. Lowey was first elected in 1988 and is regarded as a strong advocate on women’s and children’s issues.

The House subcommittee most pertinent to education funding is the Labor-H Committee, formerly known as the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Jack Kingston (R-GA) will chair the committee. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) has replaced Nita Lowey as ranking member. While Chairman Kingston is considered a “far right Republican” according to, De Lauro is ranked among the more liberal Democrats and is a fierce advocate for reproductive choice, gun control, and funding of scientific research.

House Budget Committee

Paul Ryan (R-WI), a vice-presidential candidate in 2012, will continue to serve as chair of the House Budget Committee; Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) will continue as ranking member.

House Authorization Committee

The leadership of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce will be unchanged: John Kline (R-MN) will be chair; George Miller (D-CA) will be ranking member. There are six new Democrats on the Education Committee, but some familiar education supporters such as Dale Kildee, Lynn Woolsey, and Dennis Kucinich are no longer on the committee because of retirement or election defeat.

House Committee on Science

The House Science Committee is chaired by Lamar Smith (R-TX); the ranking member is Eddie Bernice Johnson, also of Texas. This committee has a subcommittee devoted to research. The jurisdiction of the research subcommittee includes responsibility for science policy across the federal government, including the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation. The chair of the subcommittee is Larry Bucshon (R-IN); the ranking member is Dan Lipinski (D-IL)

Congressional Staff

Congressional staff leaving key positions include Bethany Little, who has moved from the Senate HELP Committee, where she was chief education counsel, to America Achieves, and several key Republican committee staff, including Beth Buehlmann and Lindsay Hunsicker. Julie Peller has moved from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce to the Lumina Foundation. Education researchers will soon become familiar with key staff working with Senator Alexander, now that he is the ranking member of the HELP Committee. David Cleary will serve as the staff director of the HELP Committee on the Republic side while continuing to serve as legislative director for Senator Alexander. Peter Oppenheim will serve as education policy director for the committee.

Agency Staff Changes

Subra Suresh, who has served as director of the National Science Foundation since his appointment in 2010, has resigned to become president of the Carnegie Mellon University. Presumably, Cora Marrett, the deputy director, will become acting director while a national search is undertaken. Joan Ferrini-Mundy continues to serve as NSF assistant director for Education and Human Resources.

John Easton will continue to provide leadership to the Institute of Education Sciences, where two new center directors have been appointed. Ruth Neild has replaced Rebecca Maynard as commissioner of the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Thomas Block began work as the Commissioner of the National Center for Education Research in January. Jack Buckley continues to provide leadership as Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics.

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