President Bush's choice of the dynamic and articulate Lamar Alexander to be the next education secretary is a most fortunate one.
A son of two teachers and currently the president of the University of Tennessee, Alexander served with distinction as governor of Tennessee from 1979 to 1987. As governor he developed the reputation of being an "education governor" and pushed education reform on the national level as president of the National Governors Association.When people asked him as governor what his goals were he always said, "Better schools, number one. Better schools, number two. Better schools, number three."
They would say, "What about better prisons? What about better health care?" Alexander would say, "One through 10 is better schools."
Alexander has long been a national leader in education reform. While governor, he instituted his "master teacher plan," resulting in higher pay for teachers based on education levels and performance.
Since he instituted his merit pay program, 7,300 teachers in Tennessee markedly improved their status, and 25 states borrowed the program for their own use.
During Alexander's governorship, the ACT scores in Tennessee rose and the number of courses offered in English, mathematics, science and foreign languages rose dramatically. In 1989, he received the Tennessee Education Commission's James B. Connant Award for outstanding national leadership in education.
Last year, Alexander espoused a worthy goal for the nation's schools - that all Americans by the end of the 1990s have at least eighth-grade skills.
When the president introduced him Monday at a press conference, Alexander said he intended to improve schools for the nation's children and provide training and adult education opportunities for American workers who need new skills for the changing workplace.
He also pledged to make George Bush's promise that he would be "the education president" come true. Surely, the person with the greatest chance of achieving that lofty goal is "the education governor."