Mass. Gov.-Elect Picks K-12 Philanthropy Official as New Education Secretary

By Andrew Ujifusa — December 23, 2014 1 min read
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Massachusetts Gov.-elect Charlie Baker has selected Jim Peyser, who works at the NewSchools Venture Fund and previously served as chairman of the state Board of Education, to be the state’s next Secretary of Education. Peyser will serve as a top advisor to Baker on education and serve as a voting member of the state school board.

Peyser will replace Matthew Malone as the state’s education secretary. Malone was selected for the job in late 2012 by outgoing Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick. Mitchell Chester occupies a separate position as the state’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education—Chester was picked by the state school board and is the equivalent of a state schools superintendent.

After the November election, Peyser was tapped by Baker, a Republican, to help lead the governor-elect’s transition team. Peyser is the managing director of the NewSchools City Fund, where he runs “city-focused investments” for NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit philanthropy that funds education entrepreneurs. He also serves on the board of directors for charter school organizations, including Achievement First, Success Charter Network, and Uncommon Schools.

In addition to his extensive background with charters and K-12 entrepreneurship, Peyser has a great deal of experience with Bay State education policy. He served as head of the state school board from 1999 to 2006, and also worked on education policy for former Massachusetts governors Mitt Romney and William Weld, both Republicans. In addition, Peyser is a former executive director of the Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based advocacy group that supports the expansion of charter schools in Massachusetts and opposes the Common Core State Standards.

Baker defeated Democrat Martha Coakley in this year’s gubernatorial race, and during the campaign spoke out strongly in favor of lifting the state’s cap on charter schools. The Massachusetts legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, refused to do so in the 2014 session. It will be interesting to see how, and to what extent, Peyser tries to work with lawmakers to lift the cap next year.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.