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Portraits of Power: Spellings to Join a Historic Gallery

By Alyson Klein — December 01, 2008 1 min read
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It’s almost time for the Bush administration to start clearing out of Washington. But Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has at least one item left on her to-do list: Attend the unveiling of her official portrait, which will hang at the Lyndon B. Johnson Department of Education building alongside paintings of all seven past education secretaries.

Secretary Spellings’ portrait is scheduled to be unveiled at a reception on Dec. 18. It will join the official painting of President Bush’s other education secretary, Rod Paige. In his portrait, Mr. Paige is wearing a suit and a tie with a crisscross pattern, posing before an American flag.

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings will have her official portrait hang at the Lyndon B. Johnson Department of Education building alongside paintings of all seven past education secretaries.

Such portraits can cost taxpayers anywhere from $7,500 to more than $50,000, according to a story in The Washington Post in October. For instance, the Department of Defense commissioned a portrait of former Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that cost more than $46,000, the Post reported. The newspaper examined summaries of 30 portrait contracts and found that most were awarded without a competitive bidding process.

An Education Department spokeswoman did not respond to a request for information about how much Secretary Spellings’ portrait will cost or when it will be completed, although it’s safe to assume that it will be finished in time for the Dec. 18 unveiling.

When he took office in 1977, President Jimmy Carter called such portraits “unnecessary luxuries” and ordered his Cabinet members to be commemorated with official photographs instead.

But a recent visit to the Education Department showed that all the likenesses of the secretaries were painted portraits. That includes the portrait of Shirley M. Hufstedler, who served under President Carter as the nation’s first secretary of education, from 1979 to early 1981.

A version of this article appeared in the December 03, 2008 edition of Education Week

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