Senate Holds Nomination Hearing for Cynthia Marten to be Deputy Secretary of Education
On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee began consideration of the nomination of Cynthia Marten to serve as Deputy Secretary of Education, the number two position at the U.S. Department of Education.
Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) highlighted her experience. Marten has served as a literacy instructor, teacher, and principal, and is currently the Superintendent of San Diego Unified School District. However, Burr noted her lack of experience in higher education and questioned her track record on equity, specifically citing disproportionate expulsion rates for Black students in the 2018-2019 school year and criticism from Disability Rights California that the district was “difficult to deal with in terms of transparency and sharing information with families of students with special needs.” Nevertheless, he stated that he was inclined to join Murray in support of her nomination.
In her opening remarks, Marten testified that her commitment to education was driven by her brother Charlie, who has developmental disabilities. She stressed that his success is based on the core belief to focus on what Charlie can do rather than what he cannot. She credited the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for drastically changing Charlie’s education journey.
During the question and answer period, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) asked how state and local educational agencies could better prepare students with disabilities, to which Marten replied that there need to be a greater investment in IDEA and more professional development. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) asked about restraint and seclusion of students with disabilities, to which Marten responded that all students should have access to learning and must be treated with dignity and respect. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) remarked that COVID-19 has caused a reduction in the number of infants and toddlers being identified for early intervention services, lamenting that those infants and toddlers have “fallen through the cracks.” Marten empathized with the importance of early interventions, citing her brother’s receipt of early intervention services. Chairwoman Murray concluded the hearing by calling for a Committee vote on the nomination “as quickly as possible.”
Marten’s nomination is expected to be approve by a bipartisan vote.