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Margaret Spellings

In office
January 20, 2005 – January 20, 2009
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Rod Paige
Succeeded by Arne Duncan

Director of the Domestic Policy Council
In office
2001 – 2005
President George W. Bush
Succeeded by Claude Allen

Born December 30, 1957 (1957-12-30) (age 52)
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Robert Spellings
Alma mater University of Houston

Margaret Spellings was the Secretary of Education under the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush and was previously Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy.

She was one of the principal proponents of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act that aimed at reforming primary and secondary education. In 2005, she convened a Commission on the Future of Higher Education to recommend reform at the post-secondary level. Since leaving this role, Spellings has founded Margaret Spellings & Company, an education consulting firm in Washington, D.C.,[1] and is a senior advisor to the Boston Consulting Group.[2]


Early life

Margaret Spellings, born Margaret Dudar on November 30, 1957 in Michigan, moved with her family to Houston when she was in the third grade. Spellings graduated from Sharpstown High School in 1975.[3]

Margaret Spellings earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of Houston in 1979 and worked in an education reform commission under Texas Governor William P. Clements and as associate executive director for the Texas Association of School Boards. Before her appointment to George W. Bush's presidential administration, Spellings was the political director for Bush's first gubernatorial campaign in 1994, and later became a senior advisor to Bush during his term as Governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000.

She is married to Robert Spellings, who practices law in Washington, DC and has lobbied for the adoption of school vouchers in Texas.

Secretary of Education

Following Rod Paige's departure as Secretary of Education, Spellings was nominated to the post of the Secretary of Education by George W. Bush on November 17, 2004,[4] confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January 20, 2005, which also marked the beginning of Bush's second presidential term,[5] and sworn in on January 31 the same year.[6] She is the second female Secretary of Education.

Opposition to Postcards from Buster television episode

On January 26, 2005, between being confirmed and sworn in as the eighth Education Secretary, Spellings sent a letter to the head of PBS condemning an episode of the show Postcards From Buster that featured Buster the Bunny visiting Vermont and interacting with the children of a lesbian couple. The mostly live-action show focuses on real children and in this episode the two women are never mentioned as being lesbians. Spellings criticized the use of government funds to produce the episode saying "many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in this episode."[7]

Openly gay U.S. Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.) publicly criticized Spellings in a letter regarding her "degrading comments":

You have said that families should not have to deal with the reality of the existence of same-sex couples, and the strong implication is that this is something from which young children should be shielded.[8]

PBS decided not to distribute the episode, although independent PBS stations have opted to air it.

No Child Left Behind

Spellings delivers a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library; former first lady Nancy Reagan is seated at the right.

In April 2005, on PBS's The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, she called Connecticut's resistance to the No Child Left Behind Act the "soft bigotry of low expectations." According to the program's transcript, she said:

I think it's regrettable, frankly, when the achievement gap between African-American and Anglo kids in Connecticut is quite large. And I think it's unfortunate for those families and those students that they are trying to find a loophole to get out of the law as opposed to attending to the needs of those kids. That’s the notion, the soft bigotry of low expectations, as the president calls it, that No Child Left Behind rejects.

In actuality, the suit resulted from the federal government forcing states to spend state dollars on extra tests, which Connecticut regarded as unfunded mandates which the law specifically prohibits.

In a January 2007 speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Spellings claimed,

Everybody here knows that before this act became law, kids often moved from grade to grade, and nobody knew whether or not they had learned to read, write, add, or subtract. We invested billions of dollars and basically just hoped for the best. The lack of accountability helped create an achievement gap where poor and minority students lagged far behind their peers. Not once in all my travels have I met a parent who didn't want their child learning on grade level now — let alone by 2014. I know I do, and I'm sure every parent in this room agrees.

Controversy overseeing student loan programs

On May 10, 2007, Spellings testified before the House Education and Labor Committee responding to criticism from New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo that the Education Department had been "asleep at the switch" in overseeing student loan programs, allowing corruption and conflicts of interest to spread.[9] Spellings has further gone on record to say that she is disregarding the suggestion by the Inspector General to hold the loan companies accountable for their gaffe.[10 ]

Commission on the Future of Higher Education

In September 2005, Spellings announced the formation of the Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education, which has also been referred to as the Spellings Commission.[11] The commission was charged with recommending a national strategy for reforming post-secondary education, with a particular focus on how well colleges and universities were preparing students for the 21st-century workplace. It had a secondary focus on how well high schools were preparing students for post-secondary education. Spellings described the work of the commission as a natural extension into higher education of the reforms carried out under No Child Left Behind, and is quoted as saying: "It's time we turn this elephant around and upside down and take a look at it."[12]

Controversy in academic fraud case

In 2007 and up to January 2009, she was involved in an academic fraud case with the Association of Theological Schools, Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities concerning ATS's and NWCCU's failure to comply with 34 CFR 602.22 and 34 CFR 602.23 which related to two civil cases in Santa Clara Superior Court (Chapel vs. Western Seminary, 1-07-CV-082457 and Nye-Wilson vs. Western Seminary, et al. 1-07-CV-089064). Subsequently, documentation was withheld and two federal civil lawsuits were filed against her (in Northern CA[13 ] and in Hawaii [14 ]). Documents and answers for missing documents were finally produced months later, thus invoking two further lawsuits. The school in question, Western Seminary was at the center of it all. Former students Randy Chapel in 2002 and Kevin Ford in 2008 did not complete their attempted suicides [15]. Chapel sued Western in 2003[16] and as part of that settlement, Chapel was to receive a degree that is subject to 34 CFR 602.22 and 34 CFR 602.23 oversight.

Media appearances

  • Spellings appeared on Celebrity Jeopardy! (episode airing November 21, 2006). She was the first sitting Cabinet member to appear as a contestant on the show. She came in second with a score of $11,100, losing to actor Michael McKean's $38,800.[17]


  1. ^ Fox News (2009). Ex-Bush Team Acclimates to Private Life. Retrieved August 9, 2009.
  2. ^ The Boston Consulting Group (2009). Former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings Named Senior Advisor to The Boston Consulting Group. Retrieved August 9, 2009.
  3. ^ Houston Independent School District
  4. ^ "Bush Taps Spellings For Education". CBS News (Associated Press). 2004-11-17. Retrieved 2008-07-26.  
  5. ^ "Rice confirmation vote delayed". CNN. 2005-01-20. Retrieved 2008-07-26.  
  6. ^ "Spellings Sworn In as Education Secretary". Fox News (AP). 2005-01-31.,2933,145902,00.html. Retrieved 2008-07-26.  
  7. ^ de Moraes, Lisa (2005-01-27). "PBS's 'Buster' Gets An Education". The Washington Post: p. C1.  
  8. ^ de Moraes, Lisa (2005-02-18). "Who Framed Buster Rabbit? The Fallout Continues". The Washington Post: p. C7.  
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "In Focus: The Spellings Commission". Inside Higher Ed.  
  12. ^
  13. ^ Chapel vs. USDE, Spellings
  14. ^ Nye-wilson vs. USDE, Spellings
  15. ^ Baptist seminary faces “corruption” charges
  16. ^ Chapel vs. Western
  17. ^ J! Archive, Show #5107
  18. ^ The Daily Show, May 22 2007
  19. ^ The Colbert Report Episode Guide
  20. ^ The topic she was grilled on was the Roleplaying Game Dungeons & Dragons owing to the death of D&D co-creator Gary Gygax that week. Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! : NPR

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Roderick Paige
United States Secretary of Education
Served under: George W. Bush

Succeeded by
Arne Duncan

Simple English

Margaret Spellings
File:Margaret Spellings, official ed photo

Assumed office 
January 20, 2005
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Rod Paige

Born December 30, 1957 (1957-12-30) (age 53)
Political party Republican
Spouse Robert Spellings
Alma mater University of Houston

Margaret Spellings (born Margaret Dudar on November 30, 1957) is the current Secretary of Education under the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush. She was previously Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy to President Bush.

She was one of the principal authors of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act.

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