White House Taps Rotherham for Key Education Adviser's Position
President Clinton has named Andrew J. Rotherham, an education policy expert now working with a prominent organization of centrist Democrats, to serve as his White House education adviser for the next six months.
Mr. Rotherham will take a leave of absence from his current post as the director of the 21st Century Schools Project at the Progressive Policy Institute, the think tank of the Democratic Leadership Council, which Mr. Clinton once chaired.
The White House post has been vacant since February, when Michael Cohen returned to the Department of Education to oversee the president's initiative to hire 100,000 new teachers and reduce class sizes. Mr. Cohen was recently nominated to serve as the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education and will continue to advise the president in an informal role.
The 28-year-old Mr. Rotherham is believed to be the youngest person appointed to the adviser's post. Because he did not rise through traditional political ranks, his appointment has touched off some controversy among other education officials in Washington. He is, however, well-liked among education groups, which was a factor in his selection, said Bruce Reed, Mr. Clinton's domestic-policy chief.
"He's a rising star," Mr. Reed said in an interview. "What we need here at the White House is an aggressive team to help make sure the president can make the most of the bully pulpit on education."
In his new role as special assistant to the president for education, Mr. Rotherham will report directly to Mr. Reed. The DLC has granted him six months of leave to work at the White House.
At the Progressive Policy Institute, Mr. Rotherham heads up the 21st Century Schools Project--a branch of the institute created last year to address education reform issues.
In his institute post, Mr. Rotherham also worked with several conservative groups, including the Heritage Foundation and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, to seek common ground on plans for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this year. The coalition broke apart earlier this year, however.
In his new job, Mr. Rotherham will advise the president on teacher quality and hiring, school construction, Title I, and other recent initiatives.
But with less than a year and a half left in Mr. Clinton's second term, the job is seen as less influential than it would be in a new administration. Mr. Clinton already has a long record of involvement in education issues.
"When you look back over the past seven years, the president has an absolutely tremendous record on education, and it really is a privilege to be a part of that," Mr. Rotherham said recently. His appointment begins Aug. 16.
Before joining the PPI late last year, Mr. Rotherham was a legislative specialist and policy analyst for the American Association of School Administrators in Arlington, Va.
Bruce Hunter, Mr. Rotherham's former boss at the AASA, called him a good choice for the White House job. "He's going to be around for a long time on the policy front," Mr. Hunter said.
Vol. 18, Issue 43, Page 30Published in Print: August 4, 1999, as White House Taps Rotherham for Key Education Adviser's Position