2020 Election Brings Change to White House and Congress; AERA Past President Linda Darling-Hammond to Lead Education Transition Team
2020 Election Brings Change to White House and Congress; AERA Past President Linda Darling-Hammond to Lead Education Transition Team

November  2020

Change is coming to Washington, D.C. President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be taking office on January 20, 2021. The Biden-Harris transition team selected an AERA past president, Linda Darling-Hammond, to lead the team that is conducting the review of the Department of Education. Darling-Hammond is president and chief executive officer of the Learning Policy Institute and Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus at Stanford University. She also serves as president of the California State Board of Education.

Darling-Hammond chaired the transition team for the Obama administration in 2008. She has declined interest in serving as Secretary of Education, though her name has come up as a potential candidate for the position. Additional members of the Department of Education transition team include several former political appointees in the Department of Education during the Obama administration and leaders of education advocacy organizations. A separate agency review team on arts and humanities will be responsible for reviewing the National Science Foundation (NSF); that team will be chaired by Courtney Chapin, executive director of the Better Angels Society. Full lists of the agency review teams are included on the Biden-Harris transition team website.

“We look forward to working with President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and the incoming administration to advance the use of sound science and evidence for policy decisions,” said AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine. “During this time of global crisis, research, statistics, and evidence-based resources are critical in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and its harmful impact on learners, teachers, and education systems.”

Congress will also see changes, although the extent of the change is less certain and Congress may continue to be divided. The House remains in Democratic control, but Republicans have gained at least five seats, with several races still left to be called. In the Senate, the question which party will have control will hinge on the results of two runoff elections in Georgia, one between Sen. David Purdue (R) and candidate Jon Ossoff (D) and one between Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) and candidate Raphael Warnock (D). If Democrats win both elections on January 5, the Senate will be tied, with Vice President-elect Harris as the deciding vote.

Two races resulted in defeat for research champions on relevant committees. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) defeated Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), a key Republican champion in supporting scientific research and chair of the subcommittee focusing on science issues in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) lost her re-election bid; she has been an advocate for education data in her work on the House Education and Labor Committee.

In addition, retirements will usher in new leadership on key committees of interest to the education research community. A new chair will lead the House Appropriations Committee with the retirement of Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) – current chair of the subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education – is among the members vying for the role. Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) is expected to take over as chair of the subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science, replacing retiring Rep. José Serrano (D-NY).

With the retirement of Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the leadership of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will change, depending on the outcome of the Georgia runoff races. Should Republicans maintain control of the Senate, potential candidates for chair include Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). If the Democratic candidates win both special elections, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the HELP Committee, will likely become chair of the committee.