United States Secretary of Education

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United States Secretary
Seal of the United States Department of Education.svg
Seal of the Department of Education
Flag of the United States Secretary of Education.svg
Flag of the Secretary of Education
Betsy DeVos official portrait (cropped).jpg
Betsy DeVos

since February 7, 2017
United States Department of Education
StyleMadam Secretary
Reports toPresident of the United States
SeatLyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building, Washington, D.C.
AppointerThe President
with Senate advice and consent
Constituting instrument20 U.S.C. § 3411
FormationNovember 30, 1979; 40 years ago (1979-11-30)
First holderShirley Hufstedler
DeputyDeputy Secretary of Education
SalaryExecutive Schedule, Level I
Education in the United States
Diploma icon.png Education portal
Flag of the United States.svg United States portal

The United States secretary of education is the head of the United States Department of Education. The secretary advises the president of the United States, and the federal government, on federal policies, programs, and activities related to all education in the United States. As a member of the president's Cabinet, the secretary is fifteenth in the line of succession to the presidency.

The current, and 11th, secretary of education is Betsy DeVos, who was nominated by President Donald Trump and approved by the United States Senate on February 7, 2017.


The United States secretary of education is a member of the president's Cabinet and is the fifteenth in the United States presidential line of succession.[2] This secretary deals with federal influence over education policy, and heads the United States Department of Education.[3]

The secretary is advised by the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, an advisory committee, on "matters related to accreditation and to the eligibility and certification process for institutions of higher education."[4]

List of secretaries[edit]

Prior to the creation of the Department of Education in 1979, Education was part of the ambit of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.


  Democratic   Republican

  Denotes an Acting Secretary of Education

List of secretaries of health, education, and welfare[edit]

No. Portrait Name State of residence Took office Left office President(s)
1 Hobby-Oveta-Culp.jpg Oveta Culp Hobby Texas April 11, 1953 July 31, 1955 Dwight D. Eisenhower
Portrait gray.png Mckkee Williams Texas July 31, 1955 August 2, 1955
2 Folsom.jpg Marion B. Folsom New York August 2, 1955 July 31, 1958
3 ArthurSFlemming.jpg Arthur S. Flemming Ohio August 1, 1958 January 19, 1961
4 Ribicoff.jpg Abraham A. Ribicoff Connecticut January 21, 1961 July 13, 1962 John F. Kennedy
Portrait gray.png Abraham A.Williams Ohio July 13, 1962 July 31, 1962
5 Celebrez.jpg Anthony J. Celebrezze Ohio July 31, 1962 August 17, 1965
Lyndon B. Johnson
6 John W. Gardner, U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.jpg John W. Gardner California August 18, 1965 March 1, 1968
7 Wilburportrait.jpg Wilbur J. Cohen Michigan May 16, 1968 January 20, 1969
8 RobertHFinch.jpg Robert H. Finch California January 21, 1969 June 23, 1970 Richard Nixon
9 ElliotLeeRichardson.jpg Elliot L. Richardson Massachusetts June 24, 1970 January 29, 1973
Portrait gray.png Jimme Keen Louisiana January 29, 1973 February 12, 1973
10 Caspar Weinberger official photo.jpg Caspar W. Weinberger California February 12, 1973 August 8, 1975
Gerald Ford
11 F. David Mathews.jpg F. David Mathews Alabama August 8, 1975 January 20, 1977
12 JAC AR 2007.jpg Joseph A. Califano Jr. District of Columbia January 25, 1977 August 3, 1979 Jimmy Carter
13 Patricia R. Harris.jpg Patricia Roberts Harris District of Columbia August 3, 1979 May 4, 1980[5]

List of secretaries of education[edit]

No. Portrait name State of Residence Took Office Left Office President
1 United States Secretary of Education Shirley Hufstedler at Miami-Dade Community College 1980-02-07 (cropped 2).jpg Shirley Hufstedler California November 30, 1979 January 20, 1981 Jimmy Carter
2 TerrelBell.jpg Terrel Bell Utah January 22, 1981 January 20, 1985 Ronald Reagan
Bill Bennett by Gage Skidmore.jpg William Bennett New York February 6, 1985 September 20, 1988
4 Cavazos.jpg Lauro Cavazos Texas September 20, 1988 December 12, 1990
George H. W. Bush
Portrait gray.png Ted Sanders
Illinois December 12, 1990 March 22, 1991
5 Lamar Alexander black and white photo.jpg Lamar Alexander Tennessee March 22, 1991 January 20, 1993
6 Richard Riley Official Department of Education Photo.jpg Richard Riley South Carolina January 21, 1993 January 20, 2001 Bill Clinton
7 Rod Paige.jpg Rod Paige Texas January 20, 2001 January 20, 2005 George W. Bush
8 Margaret Spellings, official ed photo 3.jpg Margaret Spellings January 20, 2005 January 20, 2009
9 Arne Duncan official photo (cropped).jpg Arne Duncan[6] Illinois January 21, 2009 January 1, 2016 Barack Obama
10 John B. King official portrait (cropped2).jpg John King Jr.[6] New York January 1, 2016 March 14, 2016
March 14, 2016 January 20, 2017
Portrait gray.png Phil Rosenfelt
Virginia January 20, 2017 February 7, 2017 Donald Trump
11 Betsy DeVos official portrait (cropped).jpg Betsy DeVos Michigan February 7, 2017 Incumbent

Living former secretaries[edit]

As of May 2020, there are eight living former secretaries of education (with all secretaries that have served since 1985 still living), the oldest being Lauro Cavazos (served 1988–1990, born 1927).[citation needed] The most recent secretary of Education to die was Shirley Hufstedler (served 1979–1981, born 1925) on March 30, 2016.[citation needed] The most recently serving secretary to die was Terrel Bell (served 1981–1985, born 1921) on June 22, 1996.

Name Term Date of birth (and age)
William Bennett 1985–1988 (1943-07-31) July 31, 1943 (age 76)
Lauro Cavazos 1988–1990 (1927-01-04) January 4, 1927 (age 93)
Lamar Alexander 1990-1993 (1940-07-06) July 6, 1940 (age 79)
Richard Riley 1993–2001 (1933-01-02) January 2, 1933 (age 87)
Rod Paige 2001–2005 (1933-06-17) June 17, 1933 (age 86)
Margaret Spellings 2005–2009 (1957-11-30) November 30, 1957 (age 62)
Arne Duncan[6] 2009–2015 (1964-11-06) November 6, 1964 (age 55)
John King Jr. 2016–2017 1975 (age 44–45)


  1. ^ https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/3/19
  2. ^ Wilson, Reid (October 20, 2013). "The Presidential order of succession". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  3. ^ "US Department of Education Principal Office Functional Statements". United States Department of Education. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  4. ^ NACIQI Staff (November 23, 2016). "Welcome". Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI). Retrieved November 23, 2016.
  5. ^ Harris was Secretary on May 4, 1980, when the office changed names from Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to Secretary of Health and Human Services. Because the department merely changed names, she did not need to be confirmed again, and her term continued uninterrupted.
  6. ^ a b c Eilperin, Juliet; Layton, Lyndsey; Brown, Emma (October 2, 2015). "U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to step down at end of year". Washington Post. Retrieved November 23, 2016.

External links[edit]

U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Rick Perry
as Secretary of Energy
Order of Precedence of the United States
as Secretary of Education
Succeeded by
Robert Wilkie
as Secretary of Veterans Affairs
U.S. presidential line of succession
Preceded by
Secretary of Energy
Rick Perry
15th in line Succeeded by
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Robert Wilkie