School & District Management Federal File

These Cabinet Posts, Too, Handle Education Issues

By David J. Hoff — January 21, 2009 1 min read

The Obama administration will have more than one Cabinet-level official dealing with education-related matters.

At least two others besides the secretary of education will play significant roles on issues affecting schools, one providing oversight of the new president’s pre-K initiative and the other serving as a watchdog for environmental concerns around schools.

In his confirmation hearing to be the secretary of health and human services, former Sen. Tom Daschle said he has been working with Barack Obama on how to administer a proposed $10 billion-a-year program for preschool and early-childhood programs.

“Organizationally, we’re going to be looking at this in a careful and thoughtful way,” Mr. Daschle, who represented South Dakota in the Senate from 1987 to 2005 and was the chamber’s Democratic leader for 10 years, told the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Jan. 8.

The Department of Health and Human Services already administers the $7 billion Head Start program, an education and social-services program for low-income preschoolers.

Mr. Daschle said he also wants to use the HHS post to address the problem of childhood obesity.

“Children have a lower life expectancy than we do, in part, because of obesity,” he said at the friendly hearing.

At a Jan. 14 confirmation hearing, Mr. Obama’s nominee to be the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency promised that she would investigate and address problems with toxic air near schools.

Lisa Jackson, the EPA nominee, was asked by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, whether she would send experts to identify schools where students are exposed to high levels of carcinogens and other toxins. In December, USA Today published a series of articles documenting the problem.

Ms. Jackson said she would use the EPA’s expertise to “verify the extent of the problem.”

A version of this article appeared in the January 21, 2009 edition of Education Week

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