Person

Cindy Marten

Cindy Marten is an educator and the Deputy Secretary of Education in the Biden administration. Deputy Secretary Marten previously worked for over 30 years in the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), including 8 years as superintendent. [1]

During her time as superintendent, Deputy Secretary Marten faced several controversies. Most notably, the U.S. Department of Education launched a federal investigation into the SDUSD for sexual assault, finding that school officials violated federal law. [2] Even after the investigation forced the district to change its policies, critics alleged that Marten created a culture of cover-ups surrounding sexual assault in the district and failed to protect students from abuse. SDUSD is facing a lawsuit as of May 2021 for the alleged culture of abuse that occurred during Deputy Secretary Marten’s tenure. [3]

Marten has also been a proponent of teaching far-left racial ideology in schools. Under her guidance, the SDUSD implemented a mandatory ethnic studies program for all students as a graduation requirement. [4] Marten also invited Bettina Love, a far-left practitioner of critical race theory, to give a presentation to district officials which alleged that white teachers engage in the “spirit murdering” of African-American students. [5]

In January 2021, President Joe Biden nominated then-superintendent Marten for Deputy Secretary of Education. Despite facing widespread criticism from both the political right and the political left, the U.S. Senate confirmed Deputy Secretary Marten in a near party-line vote on May 11, 2021. [6]

Early Career

Marten received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse before attending the University of California, San Diego where she received a Master’s degree in teaching and learning. [7]

After her graduation, Marten worked in several elementary schools before becoming an elementary school teacher at Central Elementary in City Heights, a low-income district in the San Diego school system. [8] She spent 17 years as an elementary school teacher before becoming the principal at Central Elementary for ten years. [9]

Tenure as San Diego Unified School District Superintendent

In 2013, Marten became superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), the second-largest school district in California. [10] Though she assisted the SDUSD with securing a $3.5 billion bond program to fund technology improvements in the district, her time as superintendent was rife with controversy. [11]

Critical Race Theory

During her time as superintendent of the SDUSD, Deputy Secretary Marten promoted far-left racial ideology in classrooms. She introduced a new grading policy in the district which barred teachers from evaluating classroom participation in grading students, claiming that doing so disadvantaged ethnic-minority students. The sweeping, district-wide policy went so far as to ban teachers from averaging grades over time and barred them from assigning penalties for late work. [12] [13]

Perhaps most controversially, the SDUSD under Marten implemented an “ethnic studies” requirement which forced all high school students to take a class in ethnic studies in order to graduate. [14] In bolstering these efforts, Deputy Secretary Marten brought Bettina Love to the district for a presentation. Love is a left-wing advocate of “critical race theory,” which teaches that racism is fundamental to the United States and that American values are based on the oppression of ethnic minorities. [15]

During her presentation on “Abolitionist Teaching,” Love accused white teachers of frequently “spirit murdering” African-American students, a process which she describes as “death that is built on racism and intended to reduce, humiliate, and destroy people of color.” Participants in Love’s presentation described Marten as “very supportive of the programming and of the speaker as well.” [16]

Under her tenure, the SDUSD also implemented a new discipline program which refused to suspend students for acting in “willful defiance” of teacher instructions, claiming that punishing such behavior harms African-American and Latino students. Instead, the district mandated the pursuit of “restorative” interventions. Even in cases in which a student “assaults an employee or makes a terroristic threat,” the policy implemented under Marten recommends “community service, counseling or a behavioral assessment.” [17] [18]

In 2018, the SDUSD applied these “restorative” policies to a student who was found carrying a knife on campus. The student did not face suspension or expulsion for carrying a lethal weapon on school property. Two weeks later, the same student stabbed a peer in the neck. In 2016, a student struck a school police officer in the head, and Marten refused to expel the student, allowing him to return to the school the following the year. Violent incidents in the SDUSD system continued and rose in frequency during Marten’s time as superintendent. [19]

Alleged Harassment Cover-Up

In December 2014, one year into Marten’s tenure as SDUSD superintendent, the U.S. Department of Education opened a sexual assault investigation into the SDUSD after a kindergarten boy allegedly sexually assaulted another kindergarten boy. [20] The investigation continued for more than 16 months, with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights eventually finding that school officials violated federal law when responding to a parent’s complaint that his son had been sexually assaulted by another student. The investigation ultimately forced the SDUSD to reform its policy for handling sexual harassment complaints. [21]

Throughout the investigation, then-Superintendent Marten never informed parents that the district was under scrutiny by the federal government. Even after the resolution of the investigation, Deputy Secretary Marten never announced the investigation or detailed the policy reforms that would be implemented as a result of the settlement. SDUSD officials only made a public statement on the investigation when an investigative journalist reported on it after obtaining related documents from the Department of Education through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. [22] Deputy Secretary Marten dismissed the seriousness of the incident between the two kindergarten students. [23]

Even after Deputy Secretary Marten signed an agreement to change district abuse policy with the Department of Education, school district members alleged that the abuse continued. Several other students came forward to say that they were dismissed by teachers under Marten’s leadership when they reported touching or inappropriate comments by teachers or peers. [24]

In 2016, a judge awarded an SDUSD high-school student $2.1 million after finding that SDUSD officials has been insufficiently trained in recognizing grooming that led to the student’s abuse. [25] In the last two years of Marten’s tenure as superintendent alone, at least four separate lawsuits alleged sexual harassment or abuse that went ignored by the SDUSD. [26]

Beyond sexual abuse allegations, Marten faced more than 100 complaints from families with special needs in the SDUSD while she was superintendent. The cases alleged that SDUSD denied necessary services to students with special needs, including assistance for deaf and hearing-impaired students. [27]

Voice of San Diego, a left-leaning nonprofit news organization, has filed a lawsuit against the SDUSD for it actions in allegedly covering up sexual harassment and abuse that is pending as of May 2021. [28]

Manipulation of Racial Equity Data

While Marten was largely praised for closing the alleged achievement gap between ethnic minorities and white students, organizations including the San Diego chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) have claimed that Deputy Secretary Marten did not make advancements on racial equality during her time as superintendent. [29]

Though Deputy Secretary Marten portrayed herself as a champion of racial equity, the San Diego NAACP pointed out that the variance in test scores between African American, Hispanic, and white students remained unchanged from 2013 when Marten took office through 2019. Disparities in graduation rates also remained relatively unchanged. [30]

Biden Administration

In January 2021, President Joe Biden nominated Cindy Marten to serve as Deputy Secretary of Education under U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. President Biden pointed to the SDUSD’s high literacy and graduation rates as reasons for nominating Deputy Secretary Marten. [31]

Deputy Secretary Marten faced a difficult confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate, with ranking Republican member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Richard Burr (R-NC) saying “if Ms. Marten was being nominated by a Republican president, [Democrats] would line up in opposition against you.” During her confirmation hearing, Deputy Secretary Marten received widespread support from Democratic Senators, while Republican Senators pressed her on issues including delayed school reopening in the SDUSD, continuing achievement gaps between white and African-American students in the district, and her opposition to school choice programs. [32]

During her confirmation hearings in March 2021, dozens of SDUSD community members gathered outside the school district’s headquarters in protest of her nomination. Members of the protest accused Deputy Secretary Marten’s nomination of being driven by “political maneuvering” and “political corruption.” [33]

Despite widespread criticisms, she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Deputy Secretary of Education on May 11, 2021 in a 54-44 vote. [34] [35]

Nomination Controversies

Though Marten’s nomination received praise from left-of-center institutions like the California Teachers Association (CTA) labor union and the Learning Policy Institute, it was also met with immediate criticism from both the political right and the political left. [36] [37]

In February 2021, left-of-center African American community leaders accused President Biden of betraying his campaign promise to nominate teachers to Department of Education positions, noting that Deputy Secretary Marten has spent most of her career in administration. [38] Erika Stone, a writer for the Black Wall Street Times, noted that Linda Darling Hammond, a close personal friend of Deputy Secretary Marten, sat on President Biden’s educational advisory committee throughout his campaign, implying that Deputy Secretary Marten’s nomination was politically motivated. [39]

Other critics brought up Deputy Secretary Marten’s history of ignoring abuse claims in her school district as superintendent. Advocates accused Marten of refusing to roll out sexual harassment training on a district-wide scale, instead implementing a piecemeal approach that led to divergent school policies. Critics claimed that Deputy Secretary Marten negatively affected victims of sexual abuse in schools by her “piss-poor leadership and neglect” and called the 2014 investigation “an egregious example of mishandling or trying to bury a sexual assault complaint.” Deputy Secretary Marten’s lack of transparency in handling the allegations and refusal to change policy until forced to do so received further criticism. [40]

Right-of-center charter school advocates also criticized Deputy Secretary Marten’s nomination. Deputy Secretary Marten previously sat on a California task force which proposed changing the state’s authorizing rules for charter schools and criticized school choice. While on the task force, Deputy Secretary Marten proposed allowing school districts to consider the “fiscal impact” of a new charter school in taking away public-school funding before deciding to approve it, echoing charter school criticisms driven by left-of-center labor unions. [41]

References

  1. Taketa, Kristen. “Biden Picks San Diego Unified Superintendent as Deputy Education Secretary; District Names Interim Leader.” La Jolla Light. La Jolla Light, January 18, 2021. https://www.lajollalight.com/news/story/2021-01-18/biden-picks-san-diego-unified-superintendent-as-deputy-education-secretary. ^
  2. Young, Chris. “Should San Diego Schools Tell Parents about Sex-Assault Investigations?” inewsource, August 12, 2020. https://inewsource.org/2016/05/12/should-san-diego-carlsbad-schools-have-told-parents-about-sex-assault-investigations/. ^
  3. Jimenez, Kayla. “Critics Say Abuse, Harassment Cases Cast a Cloud Over Marten’s Nomination.” Voice of San Diego, March 8, 2021. https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/education/critics-say-abuse-harassment-cases-cast-a-cloud-over-martens-nomination/. ^
  4. Taketa, Kristen. “San Diego Unified to Require Ethnic Studies for Graduation by 2022.” San Diego Union-Tribune, April 10, 2019. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/education/story/2019-04-10/san-diego-unified-ethnic-studies. ^
  5. Hoonhout, Tobias. “Top Biden Education Official Brought Critical Race Extremist to San Diego School District.” National Review. National Review, January 28, 2021. https://www.nationalreview.com/news/top-biden-education-official-brought-critical-race-extremist-to-san-diego-school-district/. ^
  6. “Senate Confirms San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten as U.S. Deputy Education Secretary.” NBC 7 San Diego. NBC San Diego, May 11, 2021. https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/senate-confirms-san-diego-unified-superintendent-cindy-marten-as-u-s-deputy-education-secretary/2601649/. ^
  7. Staff and wire. “Biden Names UW-La Crosse Grad as Deputy Secretary of Education.” La Crosse Tribune, January 18, 2021. https://lacrossetribune.com/news/local/biden-names-uw-la-crosse-grad-as-deputy-secretary-of-education/article_727f9137-67c0-5d99-a32d-e6d303a842e5.html. ^
  8. Staff and wire. “Biden Names UW-La Crosse Grad as Deputy Secretary of Education.” La Crosse Tribune, January 18, 2021. https://lacrossetribune.com/news/local/biden-names-uw-la-crosse-grad-as-deputy-secretary-of-education/article_727f9137-67c0-5d99-a32d-e6d303a842e5.html. ^
  9. Taketa, Kristen. “Biden Picks San Diego Unified Superintendent as Deputy Education Secretary; District Names Interim Leader.” La Jolla Light. La Jolla Light, January 18, 2021. https://www.lajollalight.com/news/story/2021-01-18/biden-picks-san-diego-unified-superintendent-as-deputy-education-secretary. ^
  10. Taketa, Kristen. “Biden Picks San Diego Unified Superintendent as Deputy Education Secretary; District Names Interim Leader.” La Jolla Light. La Jolla Light, January 18, 2021. https://www.lajollalight.com/news/story/2021-01-18/biden-picks-san-diego-unified-superintendent-as-deputy-education-secretary. ^
  11. Taketa, Kristen. “Biden Picks San Diego Unified Superintendent as Deputy Education Secretary; District Names Interim Leader.” La Jolla Light. La Jolla Light, January 18, 2021. https://www.lajollalight.com/news/story/2021-01-18/biden-picks-san-diego-unified-superintendent-as-deputy-education-secretary. ^
  12. Taketa, Kristen. “San Diego Unified Changes Grading Practices to Be Equitable, Less Punitive.” San Diego Union-Tribune, October 15, 2020. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/education/story/2020-10-15/san-diego-unified-changes-grading-protocols-to-be-more-equitable. ^
  13. Taketa, Kristen. “Biden Picks San Diego Unified Superintendent as Deputy Education Secretary; District Names Interim Leader.” La Jolla Light. La Jolla Light, January 18, 2021. https://www.lajollalight.com/news/story/2021-01-18/biden-picks-san-diego-unified-superintendent-as-deputy-education-secretary. ^
  14. Taketa, Kristen. “San Diego Unified to Require Ethnic Studies for Graduation by 2022.” San Diego Union-Tribune, April 10, 2019. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/education/story/2019-04-10/san-diego-unified-ethnic-studies. ^
  15. Hoonhout, Tobias. “Top Biden Education Official Brought Critical Race Extremist to San Diego School District.” National Review. National Review, January 28, 2021. https://www.nationalreview.com/news/top-biden-education-official-brought-critical-race-extremist-to-san-diego-school-district/. ^
  16. Hoonhout, Tobias. “Top Biden Education Official Brought Critical Race Extremist to San Diego School District.” National Review. National Review, January 28, 2021. https://www.nationalreview.com/news/top-biden-education-official-brought-critical-race-extremist-to-san-diego-school-district/. ^
  17. Taketa, Kristen. “San Diego Unified Will Require ‘Restorative’ Rather than Punitive Discipline in Some Cases.” San Diego Union-Tribune, November 8, 2020. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/education/story/2020-11-08/san-diego-unified-will-require-restorative-rather-than-punitive-student-discipline-in-certain-cases. ^
  18. Taketa, Kristen. “Biden Picks San Diego Unified Superintendent as Deputy Education Secretary; District Names Interim Leader.” La Jolla Light. La Jolla Light, January 18, 2021. https://www.lajollalight.com/news/story/2021-01-18/biden-picks-san-diego-unified-superintendent-as-deputy-education-secretary. ^
  19. Davidson, Jordan. “Biden’s USDOE Pick Has A History Of Covering Up Sexual Assault.” The Federalist. FDRLST Media, January 29, 2021. https://thefederalist.com/2021/01/29/bidens-education-secretary-pick-has-a-history-of-covering-up-sexual-assault/. ^
  20. Jimenez, Kayla. “Critics Say Abuse, Harassment Cases Cast a Cloud Over Marten’s Nomination.” Voice of San Diego, March 8, 2021. https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/education/critics-say-abuse-harassment-cases-cast-a-cloud-over-martens-nomination/. ^
  21. Young, Chris. “Should San Diego Schools Tell Parents about Sex-Assault Investigations?” inewsource, August 12, 2020. https://inewsource.org/2016/05/12/should-san-diego-carlsbad-schools-have-told-parents-about-sex-assault-investigations/. ^
  22. Young, Chris. “Should San Diego Schools Tell Parents about Sex-Assault Investigations?” inewsource, August 12, 2020. https://inewsource.org/2016/05/12/should-san-diego-carlsbad-schools-have-told-parents-about-sex-assault-investigations/. ^
  23. Jimenez, Kayla. “Critics Say Abuse, Harassment Cases Cast a Cloud Over Marten’s Nomination.” Voice of San Diego, March 8, 2021. https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/education/critics-say-abuse-harassment-cases-cast-a-cloud-over-martens-nomination/. ^
  24. Jimenez, Kayla. “Critics Say Abuse, Harassment Cases Cast a Cloud Over Marten’s Nomination.” Voice of San Diego, March 8, 2021. https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/education/critics-say-abuse-harassment-cases-cast-a-cloud-over-martens-nomination/. ^
  25. Jimenez, Kayla. “Critics Say Abuse, Harassment Cases Cast a Cloud Over Marten’s Nomination.” Voice of San Diego, March 8, 2021. https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/education/critics-say-abuse-harassment-cases-cast-a-cloud-over-martens-nomination/. ^
  26. Jimenez, Kayla. “Critics Say Abuse, Harassment Cases Cast a Cloud Over Marten’s Nomination.” Voice of San Diego, March 8, 2021. https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/education/critics-say-abuse-harassment-cases-cast-a-cloud-over-martens-nomination/. ^
  27. Nathan, Joe. “Column: Biden Should Withdraw This Nomination.” ABC Newspapers. Adams Publishing Group, February 18, 2021. https://www.hometownsource.com/abc_newspapers/opinion/columnist/column-biden-should-withdraw-this-nomination/article_df14cf92-717d-11eb-84f9-9343253d2a28.html. ^
  28. Jimenez, Kayla. “Critics Say Abuse, Harassment Cases Cast a Cloud Over Marten’s Nomination.” Voice of San Diego, March 8, 2021. https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/education/critics-say-abuse-harassment-cases-cast-a-cloud-over-martens-nomination/. ^
  29. Taketa, Kristen Facebook Twitter Show more sharing options Share Close extra sharing opti. “Critics Say San Diego Superintendent Nominated for National Post Has Mixed Record on Equity.” San Diego Union-Tribune, January 30, 2021. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/education-sdt/latest/topstories/politics/local/critics-say-san-diego-superintendent-nominated-for-national-post-has-mixed-record-on-equity. ^
  30. Taketa, Kristen Facebook Twitter Show more sharing options Share Close extra sharing opti. “Critics Say San Diego Superintendent Nominated for National Post Has Mixed Record on Equity.” San Diego Union-Tribune, January 30, 2021. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/education-sdt/latest/topstories/politics/local/critics-say-san-diego-superintendent-nominated-for-national-post-has-mixed-record-on-equity. ^
  31. Taketa, Kristen. “Biden Picks San Diego Unified Superintendent as Deputy Education Secretary; District Names Interim Leader.” La Jolla Light. La Jolla Light, January 18, 2021. https://www.lajollalight.com/news/story/2021-01-18/biden-picks-san-diego-unified-superintendent-as-deputy-education-secretary. ^
  32. Huntsberry, Will. “5 Big Moments From Cindy Marten’s Confirmation Hearing.” Voice of San Diego, March 24, 2021. https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/education/5-big-moments-from-cindy-martens-confirmation-hearing/. ^
  33. Stafford, Audra, and Karla Rendon-Alvarez. “Protest Held Outside SDUSD Headquarters Against Superintendent’s White House Nomination.” NBC 7 San Diego. NBC San Diego, March 25, 2021. https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/protest-held-outside-sdusd-headquarters-against-superintendents-white-house-nomination/2558720/. ^
  34. “Statement from Secretary Miguel Cardona on the Confirmation of Cindy Marten as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.” U.S. Department of Education, May 11, 2021. https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/statement-secretary-miguel-cardona-confirmation-cindy-marten-deputy-secretary-us-department-education. ^
  35. “Senate Confirms San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten as U.S. Deputy Education Secretary.” NBC 7 San Diego. NBC San Diego, May 11, 2021. https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/senate-confirms-san-diego-unified-superintendent-cindy-marten-as-u-s-deputy-education-secretary/2601649/. ^
  36. Stone, Erika. “Black Civil Rights Activists Respond to Cindy Marten’s Nomination to the Department of Education.” The Black Wall Street Times, February 2, 2021. https://theblackwallsttimes.com/2021/02/02/black-civil-rights-activists-respond-to-cindy-martens-nomination-to-the-department-of-education/. ^
  37. Blad, Evie. “Biden’s Pick for Deputy Education Secretary Faces Criticism Over Charter School Views.” Education Week. Editorial Projects in Education, March 15, 2021. https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/bidens-pick-for-deputy-education-secretary-faces-criticism-over-charter-school-views/2021/03. ^
  38. Stone, Erika. “Black Civil Rights Activists Respond to Cindy Marten’s Nomination to the Department of Education.” The Black Wall Street Times, February 2, 2021. https://theblackwallsttimes.com/2021/02/02/black-civil-rights-activists-respond-to-cindy-martens-nomination-to-the-department-of-education/. ^
  39. Stone, Erika. “Black Civil Rights Activists Respond to Cindy Marten’s Nomination to the Department of Education.” The Black Wall Street Times, February 2, 2021. https://theblackwallsttimes.com/2021/02/02/black-civil-rights-activists-respond-to-cindy-martens-nomination-to-the-department-of-education/. ^
  40. Jimenez, Kayla. “Critics Say Abuse, Harassment Cases Cast a Cloud Over Marten’s Nomination.” Voice of San Diego, March 8, 2021. https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/education/critics-say-abuse-harassment-cases-cast-a-cloud-over-martens-nomination/. ^
  41. Blad, Evie. “Biden’s Pick for Deputy Education Secretary Faces Criticism Over Charter School Views.” Education Week. Editorial Projects in Education, March 15, 2021. https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/bidens-pick-for-deputy-education-secretary-faces-criticism-over-charter-school-views/2021/03. ^

Connected Organizations

  1. Biden Administration (Government Agency)
    Deputy Secretary of Education
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