Clinton’s Transition Team Gears Up, But Offers Few Signals on Education

By Lynn Olson & Julie A. Miller — November 11, 1992 3 min read

WASHINGTON--President-elect Bill Clinton’s transition team switched into high gear last week, though there were few concrete indications of how education would be handled between now and Inauguration Day.

Keith B. Geiger, the president of the National Education Association, which launched an unprecedented effort to help elect the Arkansas Democrat, said the union had submitted a list of possible nominees to participate on the transition team.

Mr. Geiger also said he expects that the union will be asked for its advice after Mr. Clinton comes up with his “short list’’ of candidates for secretary of education.

Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said that his union had been told to “get ready to submit stuff on whatever we were interested in.’'

A Clinton-Gore pre-transition planning foundation, known as the C.G.P.T.P.F., has been at work for much of the fall under the direction of Mickey Kantor, the chairman of the Clinton campaign; Henry Cisneros, a former mayor of San Antonio; Warren M. Christopher, a former deputy secretary of state; Madeleine Kunin, a former governor of Vermont; and Vernon Jordan, a Washington lawyer and civil-rights leader.

Gerald Stern, on leave from Occidental Petroleum Corporation in Los Angeles, heads the day-to-day operations. He is assisted by John Hart, a Washington lawyer.

As of last week, however, jockeying was continuing over who would head up the formal transition effort. And no contact person had yet been named for education.

Richard Riley, a former Democratic governor of South Carolina who helped forge one of the nation’s most comprehensive pieces of school-reform legislation in the 1980’s, was among the names mentioned to head up the transition team.

A Critical Period

Experts have argued that Mr. Clinton’s actions in the next 2 1/2 months will be critical in establishing the themes and the foundation for his Presidency.

One of the strongest early signals he can send is whom he selects for top cabinet posts. Most observers predicted that he would name key appointments before Thanksgiving.

The list of possible nominees for education secretary swelled last week as speculation ran rampant.

Among the names most often advanced were Roy Romer, the Democratic Governor of Colorado; Thomas H. Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey; and Donna Shalala, the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin and a long-time friend of the Clintons who succeeded the President-elect’s wife, Hillary, as chairwoman of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Others mentioned include Joseph Duffey, the president of American University; Joseph A. Fernandez, the chancellor of the New York City schools; David W. Hornbeck, a former Maryland state superinten
dent; Johnnetta Cole, the president of Spelman College; and Mr. Riley.

In the Education Department, the Senate must confirm nominees for 13 positions, not including the Secretary. One level down the organization chart, there are dozens of political appointees who report to assistant secretaries.

There are also more than 150 slots for lower-level appointees who work with officials who have policymaking responsibilities.

It is likely many political posts could go unfilled well into next year.

‘Mandate for Change’

Meanwhile, formal and informal coalitions have been preparing their own briefing books and advice for the next President.

“Every time I meet with a bunch of people,’' Mr. Shanker of the A.F.T. joked, “people tell me that they were at some other meeting last night on a bunch of topics.’'

One book likely to have an influence on the direction of the Clinton Administration is being prepared by the Progressive Policy Institute, the think tank of the Democratic Leadership Council.

Mr. Clinton chaired the D.L.C. from March 1990 to August 1991.

The book, Mandate for Change, will be ready by late this month or early next, said Bette Phelan, the council’s press secretary, although portions of it may be released as early as next week.

Charles C. Moskos, a professor of sociology at Northwestern University and the chairman of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society; Robert I. Lerman, the chairman of the department of economics at American University; and Ted Kolderie, a senior fellow at the Center for Policy Studies in Minnesota, are contributing to the education chapter.

Ms. Phelan said, “We’re really not talking in tremendous detail about any of the chapters right now.’'

But she noted that Mr. Clinton and the D.L.C. have consistently stressed, among other themes, the creation of “charter schools,’' a system of national youth apprenticeships, and the development of a voluntary service program for young people.

A version of this article appeared in the November 11, 1992 edition of Education Week as Clinton’s Transition Team Gears Up, But Offers Few Signals on Education