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.
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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


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