Government Agency

Biden Administration – Department of Education


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This profile contains Biden Administration nominations and appointments made at the U.S. Department of Education.

Nominations and Appointments

Lisa Brown is General Counsel at the Department of Education. She was formerly vice president and general counsel at Georgetown University. During the Obama Administration, she served as White House Staff Secretary, as well as acting chief performance officer in the Office of Management and Budget. Before that, she was executive director of the American Constitution Society. During the Clinton Administration, she served as an attorney in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice, and was later counsel to Vice President Al Gore. She has served on the boards of the Center for Law and Social Policy, DC Theatre Lab, and Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL).1

Miguel Cardona is Secretary of Education. Cardona had served as Commissioner of Education for the Connecticut State Department of Education since 2019. He also formerly served as an elementary school teacher, school principal, and district assistant superintendent in Meriden, Connecticut, as well as co-chairperson of the Connecticut Legislative Achievement Gap Task Force an the Connecticut Birth to Grade Three Leaders Council. He taught for four years as an adjunct professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at the University of Connecticut.2

On April 27, 2021, Fox News reported that during Cardona’s tenure as Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education, he had taken steps to ensure teacher support for the state’s new African-American, Black, Latino, and Puerto Rican Course of Studies high school curriculum. According to emails obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, Cardona wrote that “we need teachers behind this wave of our curriculum becoming more ‘woke.'” The curriculum reportedly addresses “the construct of race and why and how it was developed,” and spends three days each on systemic racism and the Black Lives Matter movement, among many other topics.3

Donna Harris-Aikens was Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy at the U.S. Department of Education until 2023, having previously been Acting Assistant Secretary in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development and Senior Advisor for Policy and Planning. She was a member of the Education Agency Review Team for the Biden-Harris Transition and a member of the Democratic National Convention Committee Platform Committee. Harris-Aikens formerly served as Senior Director for Education Policy and Practice at the National Education Association, before that served as Policy Manager at the Service Employees International Union,4 and also worked at Advance CTE.5 She has served as a board member at the Learning First Alliance.6

Juliana Herman Rinz is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, having previously been Chief of Staff.7 She formerly served as chief of staff and senior advisor at the Markle Foundation. Before that, she was a Broad Resident, serving as deputy chief and policy advisor at District of Columbia Public Schools. She also previously served as a senior policy advisor in the office of U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), and as an education policy analyst at the Center for American Progress.89

Emma Leheny was Principal Deputy General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Education until 2022.10 She formerly served as Senior Counsel at the National Education Association, and before that was Chief Counsel at the California Teachers Association. Before that, she was a partner at the law firm of Rothner, Segall & Greenstone. She has served as a member of the Executive Board of the National Immigration Law Center, and as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law.11

Catherine Lhamon is Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights. She had previously served in the Biden Administration as Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council for Racial Justice and Equity. Before that, she was chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 2016 until January 2021.12 She served as Legal Affairs Secretary to California Governor Gavin Newsom until December 2020, and was also previously an attorney at the National Center for Youth Law.13 During the Obama Administration, she served as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. Before that, she was director of impact litigation at Public Counsel, assistant legal director at the ACLU of Southern California, and a teaching fellow and supervising attorney in the appellate litigation program at Georgetown University Law Center.14 Lhamon was listed by Demand Justice on its Supreme Court Shortlist.15

Cindy Marten is Deputy Secretary of Education. She had formerly served as Superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District since 2013. Before that, she was an instructor, teacher, and school principal in San Diego. She has served on the board of the California Schools Voluntary Employees Benefits Association (VEBA) and as a member of the San Diego Public Library Commission.16

Marten’s nomination attracted some criticism, particularly related to her policy as superintendent of keeping San Diego schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.17 In January 2021, The Washington Free Beacon noted that “Marten’s refusal to set a timeline for schools to reopen is in direct contradiction with Biden, who has vowed to have schools reopen within the first hundred days of his presidency.” A former Republican San Diego county supervisor praised Marten’s passion as superintendent, but remarked that she had “consistently favored the loudest voice at the decision-making table, and that is the teachers’ union. It’s alarming to us as parents to witness the strong influence of labor unions on the continued closure of public schools.”18


  1. “Lisa Brown.” Department of Education. Accessed August 5, 2022. Available at:
  2. “Commissioner.” Connecticut State Department of Education. Accessed December 28, 2020. Available at:
  3. Olson, Tyler. “Education Secretary Miguel Cardona Worried About Getting Teachers Behind New ‘Woke’ Curriculum in Email.” Fox News. April 27, 2021. Available at:
  4. “Donna Harris-Aikens.” Linkedin. Accessed February 7, 2024. Available at:
  5. “U.S. Department of Education Announces Biden-Harris Appointees.” U.S. Department of Education. January 21, 2021. Available at:
  6. “Learning First Alliance Staff & Leadership.” Learning First Alliance. Accessed December 7, 2020. Available at:
  7. “Juliana Herman Rinz.” Linkedin. Accessed February 7, 2024. Available at:
  8. “U.S. Department of Education Announces More Biden-Harris Appointees.” U.S. Department of Education. February 25, 2021. Available at:
  9. “Program Profiles: Juliana Herman.” The Broad Center. Accessed August 9, 2021. Available at:
  10. “Potomac Law Welcomes Emma Leheny.” Potomac Law Group. July 12, 2022. Available at:
  11. “Emma Leheny.” American University. Accessed June 18, 2021. Available at:
  12. “Catherine Lhamon, Assistant Secretary, Office for Civil Rights; Biography.” U.S. Department of Education. Accessed December 27, 2021. Available at:
  13. “White House Senior Staff: Catherine Lhamon.” Biden-Harris Transition. February 19, 2021 (accessed via WayBack Machine). Available at:
  14. “Catherine E. Lhamon.” U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Accessed February 19, 2021. Available at:
  15. “Supreme Court Shortlist.” Demand Justice. Accessed February 19, 2021. Available at:
  16. “Bio.” San Diego Unified School District. Accessed May 13, 2021. Available at:
  17. Taketa, Kristen. “Critics of San Diego Superintendent Call on Biden to Rescind Her Nomination to Education Post.” Los Angeles Times. January 25, 2021. Available at:
  18. Foldi, Matthew. “Biden Education Pick is Leading Opponent of Return to Classrooms.” The Washington Free Beacon. January 26, 2021. Available at:

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Cindy Marten
    Deputy Secretary of Education
  2. Miguel Cardona
    Secretary of Education
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