Profile: Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings

Longtime Adviser Named to Cabinet

Margaret Spellings, President Bush's choice for education secretary, has been confirmed by the Senate.

She is a longtime adviser and confidante of the president, and one of the major architects of his much-touted No Child Left Behind Act.

A domestic policy adviser to Bush with deep Texas roots, Spellings replaces Rod Paige as the top education official in the United States.

In a department notoriously weighed down by bureaucratic wrangling, Spellings will face a challenging job. But several officials who have worked with her in the past say the 46-year-old has a "no-nonsense" attitude and is well equipped to take on a tough assignment.

Best known in Washington circles for her role in helping to craft the No Child Left Behind Act, Spellings has managed to garner respect across party lines. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who worked with Spellings to pass the act, has called her "a capable, principled leader who has the ear of the president and has earned strong bipartisan respect in Congress."

A Loyal Adviser

Certainly, Spellings has a track record of exceptional loyalty, a trait that cannot be overestimated in the Bush administration, according to Washington insiders.

Her working relationship with Bush dates back to his 1994 Texas gubernatorial race, when she served as a political adviser and later as chief education adviser on his staff.

In Austin, Spellings helped promote Bush's agenda to limit the role of federal and state government in public education and to end "social promotion" by forbidding schools to let third-graders go on to fourth grade if they repeatedly failed to meet academic standards.

It was the philosophical foundations of the No Child Left Behind agenda, which seeks to reward achievement, sanction failure and discourage "social promotion."

While some education officials, teachers and parents have criticized No Child Left Behind for penalizing low-income schools, it has been the cornerstone of Bush's education initiatives.

As education secretary, Spellings is widely expected to mirror Bush's commitment to the initiative, solidifying the focus of the act, while attempting to expand its reach. While No Child Left Behind now covers the third through eighth grades, Bush also wants students tested in order to earn diplomas.

Working With Teachers

Born in Michigan, Spellings moved to Houston with her family when she was in the third grade. She is the product of U.S. public schools, a fact she often mentions.

The eldest of four daughters, Spellings helped finance her education at the University of Houston by working at a supermarket, a job she once described as empowering.

It's been a long journey to the nation's top spot in education, but Spellings still faces challenges ahead of her.

Paige, her predecessor and a former superintendent of schools in Houston, had a famously acrimonious relationship with the National Education Association, the nation's most powerful teachers union, an institution he once called a "terrorist organization."