Biden Picks San Diego Superintendent for Deputy Education Secretary

President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Cindy Marten, the superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District, to serve as deputy secretary of education, his transition team announced Monday.

Marten was a classroom teacher for 17 years before she took roles as a vice principal, principal, and literacy specialist. The San Diego school board appointed her to lead the district in 2013. In the time since, the school system has been recognized for improving students’ reading achievement and graduation rates.

Marten has been outspoken about addressing concerns about equity and interrupted learning time as schools continue to face the COVID-19 crisis. In November, she wrote to the Biden transition team to push for a massive federal response, including $350 billion in direct aid to schools over two years, support for a national teacher corps program, and a nationwide coronavirus testing strategy for schools.

“Our nation cannot afford a lost generation of learners,” Marten wrote. “Nor can we afford an incomplete recovery that leaves communities of color behind and extends 400 years of inequality for another decade.”

The San Diego district’s academic success and leadership has also won praise from the Learning Policy Institute, an organization founded by Linda Darling-Hammond, who led the Biden transition team’s education efforts.

San Diego schools have remained largely closed for in-person instruction this year. Marten spoke to Education Week in December about a massive testing plan she developed with local scientists to help reopen classrooms. Those plans have since been stalled by an unprecedented surge of virus cases across the state.

“We are educators,” Marten told Education Week in December, explaining her concerns about a lack of federal support and guidance. “We are not epidemiologists and virologists who understand the nature of this disease and who understand public health policy.”

Marten’s letter to the Biden transition team backed up some of his biggest education priorities: tripling Title I funding for disadvantaged students and boosting federal special education funding.

If confirmed by the Senate, Marten will replace current Deputy Education Secretary Mick Zais, who has served as acting education secretary since former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos resigned earlier this month.

Biden has named Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona as his choice for education secretary.

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