Federal Explainer

Lauro F. Cavazos, Fourth U.S. Education Secretary: Biography and Achievements

By Education Week Library Staff — August 18, 2017 | Updated: March 25, 2022 3 min read
President-elect George H. Bush addresses an Education Department forum, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 1989 in Washington as Education Secretary Lauro Cavazos listens.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Biographical Information: Cavazos was born in Kingsville, Texas, Jan. 4, 1927. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in zoology from Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University), and then earned a doctorate in physiology from Iowa State University. Cavazos was a professor at and then dean of Tufts University School of Medicine. He returned to Texas Tech University to serve as president of the university from 1980 to 1988. Cavazos served as education secretary under President Ronald Reagan and then for President George H.W. Bush. In December 1990, he resigned from his post and returned to Tufts School of Medicine. He died March 15, 2022.

Served Under: Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush

Dates of Tenure: 1988-1990

Fun Fact: He was the first Hispanic education secretary and the only education secretary so far to serve under two presidents.

Achievements in Office:

  • He chaired the Task Force on Hispanic Education, which led to George H.W. Bush’s executive order on excellence in education for Hispanic Americans.
  • He was widely praised for filling the top posts in the Education Department with people who were generally considered to be highly qualified.

Archives of Note:

Reagan Picks Hispanic College Chief To Succeed Bennett
Texas educators and Hispanic leaders applaud Lauro F. Cavazos, nominated to be the next secretary of education, for his distinguished record as a teacher and administrator. (Sept. 7, 1988)

Door Is Always Open, Cavazos Tells Educators
Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos met last week with more than 100 representatives of the education community, pledging to listen to their concerns and to enlist them in his efforts to increase educational opportunity. (Oct. 12, 1988)

Cavazos: ‘I Want To Raise Awareness’ About the Serious ‘Education Deficit’
The new secretary said he plans to adopt the heavy schedule of travel and speechmaking that was a hallmark of Mr. Bennett’s tenure. (Nov. 9, 1988)

Cavazos Unveils Plan To Combat Loan Defaults
Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos last week proposed to begin a “graduated” attack on the escalating problem of federal student-loan defaults by cracking down on schools at which a majority of students fail to repay their loans. (June 7, 1989)

Cavazos Issues Call for National Study Of Problems Plaguing Indian Students
Charging that the education reform movement has “yet to make a dent in the worrisome state of Indian education,” Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos last week called for a national study of the problems plaguing Native American students. (Oct. 18, 1989)

Bush Orders Advisory Panel on Hispanic Education
Warning that “we can’t afford to waste a whole generation” of Hispanic Americans, President Bush last week signed an executive order that creates an advisory panel on their education. (Oct. 3, 1990)

After Two Years, Cavazos’ Relations With Fellow Hispanics Remain Rocky
When Ronald Reagan announced in 1988 that Lauro F. Cavazos would be the new secretary of education and the first Hispanic to serve in the Cabinet, many in the Hispanic community expressed suspicion about the President’s motives for the election-year appointment, but pride at the achievement of one of their own. (Oct. 24, 1990)

Cavazos Has Kind Words for President In His Last Official Speech as Secretary
As Cavazos resigns, he shares positive reflections from his time in the position. (Jan. 9, 1991)

3 Federal Agencies Probing Cavazos Travel Practices
The Education and Justice departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are examining whether the travel practices of former Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos violated federal regulations, current and former Bush administration officials said last week. (May 22, 1991)

    Additional Resources
    The University of Virginia’s Miller Center A short biography highlighting his years as secretary
    Texas Archival Resources Online Collection of Cavazos’ professional and personal papers from 1943 to 1991 (includes biographical sketch)

    How to Cite This Article
    Education Week Library Staff. (2017, August 18). Lauro F. Cavazos, Fourth U.S. Education Secretary: Biography and Achievements. Education Week. Retrieved Month Day, Year from https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/lauro-f-cavazos-fourth-u-s-education-secretary-biography-and-acheivements/2017/08

    Events

    This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
    Sponsor
    Teaching Profession Webinar
    Professional Wellness Strategies to Enhance Student Learning and Live Your Best Life
    Reduce educator burnout with research-affirmed daily routines and strategies that enhance achievement of educators and students alike. 
    Content provided by Solution Tree
    English-Language Learners Webinar The Science of Reading and Multilingual Learners: What Educators Need to Know
    Join experts in reading science and multilingual literacy to discuss what the latest research means for multilingual learners in classrooms adopting a science of reading-based approach.
    School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
    Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.

    EdWeek Top School Jobs

    Teacher Jobs
    Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
    View Jobs
    Principal Jobs
    Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
    View Jobs
    Administrator Jobs
    Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
    View Jobs
    Support Staff Jobs
    Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
    View Jobs

    Read Next

    Federal Use Your 'Teacher Voice,' Jill Biden Urges in a Push for Political Activism
    Voting in the midterms is a critical step educators can take to bolster democracy, the first lady and other labor leaders told teachers.
    5 min read
    First Lady Jill Biden speaks during the American Federation of Teachers convention, Friday, July 15, 2022, in Boston.
    First lady Jill Biden speaks during the American Federation of Teachers convention in Boston.
    Michael Dwyer/AP
    Federal Federal Initiative Leverages COVID Aid to Expand After-School, Summer Learning
    The Education Department's Engage Every Student effort includes partnerships with civic organizations and professional groups.
    3 min read
    Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks at an event on June 2, 2022, at the Department of Education in Washington.
    U.S. Secretary of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks at an event at the Department of Education in Washington in June. The department has announced a push for expanded access to after-school and summer learning programs.
    Jacquelyn Martin/AP
    Federal Restraint and Seclusion, and Disability Rights: Ed. Department Has Work to Do, Audit Finds
    The Government Accountability Office releases a checklist of how the U.S. Department of Education is performing on a list of priorities.
    4 min read
    Flags decorate a space outside the office of the Education Secretary at the Education Department in Washington on Aug. 9, 2017.
    Flags decorate a space outside the office of the Education Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education. The Government Accountability Office has released recommended priorities for the Education Department that target special education rights.
    Jacquelyn Martin/AP
    Federal Biden Administration Boosts Grants for Community Schools, Sharpens Funding Priorities
    The Education Department will award $68 million through its Full-Service Community Schools program.
    2 min read
    First-graders Rhiannon Hanson, left, and Holden Ashbrook make fruit skewers in class at Lincoln Elementary School in Dubuque, Iowa, on Jan. 20, 2022. Project Rooted has partnered with Dubuque Community Schools for a pilot program in which it provides monthly boxes containing local foods and a project to first-grade classrooms.
    First-graders Rhiannon Hanson, left, and Holden Ashbrook make fruit skewers at Lincoln Elementary School in Dubuque, Iowa. The U.S. Department of Education is providing grants to high-quality community schools that provide wraparound services like the nutrition programs at Lincoln Elementary.
    Jessica Reilly/Telegraph Herald via AP