Biden administration names acting education secretary

Philip Rosenfelt served as acting secretary during the transition between the Obama and Trump administrations in 2017
By: | January 21, 2021

President Joe Biden announced on Jan. 20 the names of acting heads of federal agencies, including at the U.S. Education Department, to serve while nominees are considered and confirmed by Congress.

“These public servants, like so many across the federal government, are dedicated to serving the American people, not a political party or agenda,” Biden said in a statement announcing the appointments. “Their experience in government and commitment to service will allow this administration to take the reins as we prepare to get the pandemic under control and our economy moving once again.”

Biden named Philip Rosenfelt to be acting education secretary while the administration’s nominee Miguel Cardona, former education commissioner of Connecticut, wends his way through the confirmation process.

Rosenfelt, who is the deputy general counsel for program service in the Office of the General Counsel, also served as acting secretary during the transition between the Obama administration and Trump administration in 2017.

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Rosenfelt has served in acting capacity for several other ED positions, including acting general counsel of the department from 2011-2014. He is a career civil servant, serving in the U.S. Education Department and its predecessor since 1971.

According to his ED biography, in his position as deputy counsel, Rosenfelt “oversees legal services to the department relating to the development and implementation of federal programs that assist elementary and secondary, vocational and adult education, special education, rehabilitative services, the Institute of Education Sciences, educational equity, and ethics provisions, as well as advice to the Office of the Secretary of Education on civil rights issues.”

One of Rosenfelt’s duties as acting Education secretary could be a review of recent rules and regulations issued by ED to comply with an executive order and two memoranda from the Biden administration signed on Jan. 20.

“The heads of agencies shall promptly take steps to rescind any orders, rules, regulations, guidelines, or policies, or portions thereof, implementing or enforcing” Trump administration executive orders on regulatory reform, according to Biden’s executive order.

In a separate memo, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said federal agencies should freeze rules and regulations for administrative review by agency heads or their designated staff. In addition, Klain said no pending rules or regulations should be issued “until a department or agency head designated by the president after noon on January 20, 2021 reviews and approves the rule.”

At press time, ED did not respond to a request for comment on the appointment.

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Charles Hendrix covers education funding and other Title I issues for DA’s parent company, LRP Publications.