Simon Nominated to Be Deputy Secretary

April 26, 2005 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print
Raymond J. Simon, the U.S. Education Department's assistant secretary for K-12, reviews notes at a Senate hearing on early childhood last week.

Raymond J. Simon appears on track for a big promotion at the Department of Education.

President Bush this month nominated the longtime educator and former Arkansas state schools chief to take the No. 2 slot at the department, where he now serves as a popular and high-profile assistant secretary.

“I think he’s going to be a good selection,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, which must approve the nomination before sending it to the full Senate. “I haven’t talked to the chairman about this yet,” Sen. Kennedy said in an interview last week, referring to Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., “but it should be pretty simple, pretty quick.”

Meanwhile, Mississippi state schools Superintendent Henry L. Johnson, who has been a vocal supporter of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, is reportedly being considered to replace Mr. Simon as the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.

There has long been speculation that Mr. Simon would get the president’s nod for the deputy secretary’s slot. He is well-liked in Washington policy circles and far beyond the Capital Beltway.

President Bush’s April 15 nomination of Mr. Simon was welcomed by some prominent education groups here, including the Council of Chief State School Officers.

The council “could not be more pleased,” said its executive director, G. Thomas Houlihan. “He is a practitioner who’s lived in the shoes of people who have to carry out this [No Child Left Behind] legislation.”

“Our dealings with Mister Simon have worked out really well,” said Bruce Hunter, the chief lobbyist for the American Association of School Administrators, based in Arlington, Va. “He has been there in the chair, trying to make things work on a day-to-day basis, and that’s part of the reason why his dealings with administrators have been so generally positive.”

A ‘Natural Step’

Mr. Simon has spent his entire professional career in education, with stints as a math teacher, school principal, district superintendent, and Arkansas state chief. Since joining the federal Education Department in December 2003, he’s played a key role in carrying out the No Child Left Behind Act. The measure, which President Bush signed in January 2002, is under fire from state legislatures, teachers’ unions, and others for its mandates on school improvement and what critics say is inadequate funding.(“Union, States Wage Frontal Attack on NCLB,” and “Chiefs’ Group, Federal Department on Better Terms,” April 27, 2005.)

Mr. Simon said that, if the Senate confirms his nomination, he expects to remain deeply involved with the law’s implementation.

Raymond J. Simon, left, talks with Wade F. Horn, a federal health and human services official, after Mr. Simon spoke before a Senate education subcommittee.

“Should I be fortunate enough to be confirmed, it’s going to be a very natural step for me in view of the fact that the secretary has reorganized the department, and basically the deputy secretary will have immediate oversight in working with the ‘little kids,’ we call it, K-12,” he said in an interview after testifying April 20 on early-childhood education before a Senate subommittee.

“It would be an opportunity,” he said, “to really make sure that the resources of the department are truly focused on the mission of No Child Left Behind.”

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings in March announced plans to revamp the agency’s structure, including the creation of two new offices headed by assistant secretaries. (“Spellings Puts Her Stamp on Department,” March 11, 2005.)

A day before his Senate testimony, Mr. Simon showed a lighter side to his former colleagues at the CCSSO’s annual legislative conference. Starting an hourlong question-and-answer session, he joked about how thoroughly the FBI vets potential nominees for positions such as deputy secretary of education.

He filled out a questionnaire that asked, among other things, whether he had ever used drugs illegally. “Answer ‘yes,’ ” he said, “even if you didn’t inhale.”

That and other jokes drew laughter from CCSSO members, and his message was received warmly. He promised that the department would review state accountability plans—blueprints for how states will meet accountability requirements under the NCLB law—in the “most objective manner as we possibly can.”

If confirmed, Mr. Simon would replace Eugene W. Hickok, who stepped down as deputy secretary early this year.

As for the vacancy Mr. Simon’s promotion would create, the Bush administration may look to fill it with Mr. Johnson, the Mississippi education superintendent. The White House declined to comment on the matter.

Mr. Johnson, Mississippi’s first African-American state schools chief since Reconstruction, could not be reached for comment last week. He told the Jackson, Miss., Clarion-Ledger newspaper this month that he was being considered for the K-12 assistant secretary’s post, but that no formal offer had been made.

Kenny Bush, a member of the Mississippi board of education who helped hire Mr. Johnson in 2002, would not comment when asked whether the schools chief would accept the federal post. But he said that Washington’s gain would be Mississippi’s loss.

“He would be great at traveling, giving speeches, at helping the U.S. Department of Education serve the various states,” the state board member said. “I think he would bring tremendous credibility to the U.S. Department of Education. My only concern would be whether he would have the patience to put up with the bureaucracy in Washington.”

Assistant Editor David J. Hoff and Staff Writer Alan Richard contributed to this story.


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.
Law & Courts Webinar
Future of the First Amendment:Exploring Trends in High School Students’ Views of Free Speech
Learn how educators are navigating student free speech issues and addressing controversial topics like gender and race in the classroom.
Content provided by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
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.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

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 The Senate Gun Bill: What It Would Mean for School Safety, Mental Health Efforts
Details of a bipartisan Senate agreement on guns outline additional funding to support student mental health programs.
6 min read
Protesters take to the streets of downtown Detroit June 11 to call for new gun laws. One holds up a sign that says "policy and change."
Protesters call for new gun laws in Detroit's March for Our Lives event earlier this month.
KT Kanazawich for Education Week
Federal What Educators Need to Know About Senators' Bipartisan Deal on Guns, School Safety
In addition to gun restrictions, a tentative compromise would also fund mental health and school safety programs—but it faces hurdles.
4 min read
Protesters hold up a sign that shows the outline of a rifle struck through with a yellow line at a demonstration in support of stronger gun laws.
Protesters gather for the March For Our Lives rally in Detroit, among the demonstrations against gun violence held on the heels of recent mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas.
KT Kanazawich for Education Week
Federal Senate Negotiators Announce a Deal on Guns, Breaking Logjam
The agreement offers modest gun curbs and bolstered efforts to improve school safety and mental health programs.
5 min read
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., speaks during a rally near Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 10, 2022, urging Congress to pass gun legislation. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Federal Education Secretary: 'Let's Transform Our Appreciation of Teachers to Action'
Miguel Cardona shared strategies to help recruit, develop, and retain effective teachers.
5 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year event in the White House on April 27.
Susan Walsh/AP