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Bush picks Spellings for education secretary

Nominee is longtime policy adviser to president

President Bush on Wednesday nominates Margaret Spellings to be secretary of education.
George W. Bush
Education secretary

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Wednesday nominated domestic policy adviser Margaret Spellings to be the next education secretary, replacing Rod Paige.

Spellings has served as a domestic policy adviser since Bush took office in 2001, with issues such as education, health and labor in her portfolio. She also was a key figure in drafting the president's No Child Left Behind education initiative.

Before coming to the White House, Spellings worked for six years as a senior adviser to Bush when he was governor of Texas, where she also was responsible for developing education policy.

Bush said he had known Spellings for more than a decade and had relied on her advice throughout his political career.

"I'm now calling on this energetic reformer to serve the children of America by continuing our vital work of improving our nation's public schools," he said.

He said that she would continue to push his education reforms.

"We must ensure that a high school diploma is a sign of real achievement so that our young people have the tools to go to college and to fill the jobs of the 21st century," Bush said. "In all our reforms, we will continue to stand behind our nation's teachers who work so hard for our children."

The No Child Left Behind Act, passed in January 2002, requires each state to demonstrate that it has developed challenging standards for students in reading and math and, in future years, science. Each state must annually test every child's progress in reading and math in third through eighth grades and at least once during 10th through 12th grades.

Some critics have complained that the program is underfunded, while others say it is too ambitious.

In a speech at the Republican National Convention, Paige lauded the measure, saying "All across America, test scores are rising; students are learning; the achievement gap is closing; teachers and principals are beaming with pride."

The nation's largest teacher's union, the National Education Association, which had a frosty relationship with Paige, called Spellings' nomination "a great opportunity for the administration to change the tone of its discourse with the education community."

"We look forward to finding common ground with Ms. Spellings in her new role," the NEA said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Paige called the NEA a "terrorist organization" for its opposition to No Child Left Behind. The union called on Bush to sack Paige, who later apologized.

Paige's resignation from the Cabinet was announced Monday. He said he plans to return to his home state of Texas.

Bush praised Paige on Wednesday as a "humble and decent man who inspired his department and implemented the most significant federal education reform in a generation."

"The nation's schools are stronger because of Rod Paige's leadership," Bush said.

Spellings is the latest new face nominated to Bush's second-term Cabinet. Her nomination comes after several resignations.

Six members of the Cabinet, including Paige, have announced their resignations.

They are Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Commerce Secretary Don Evans, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.

Two administration officials said that Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge also plans to leave, but a spokesman for the department said that Ridge has not made any decisions about his future.

Bush announced Tuesday that he had nominated national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to replace Powell. (Bush picks Rice to succeed Powell)

White House counsel Alberto Gonzales was nominated to replace Ashcroft. (Bush attorney general pick is Alberto Gonzales)

Bush has chosen Harriet Miers to replace Gonzales, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

CNN's Jennifer Yuille contributed to this report.

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