More than 40 Hispanic civil rights groups asked President-elect Joe Biden on Friday to pick Lily Eskelsen García as his new education secretary.
A few days later, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, led by chair Rep Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and Rep Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), also sent a letter of endorsement for García, explaining why they believed she is a top contender for the position.
“She used her platform to rally educators and persuade lawmakers in Utah to invest more in public school. This gave Lily deep experience in working with students, parents, families, educators, elected officials, and community leaders, and building effective durable constituencies,” they wrote.
García is a former National Education Association (NEA) president. Prior to this, she was also the president of the Utah Education Association.
A letter written by Antonio Flores, president and CEO of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, stated that García is “the ideal candidate to lead the U.S. Department of Education in a new direction from the previous destructive practices and policies of the Trump Administration.”
The nomination of a Latina secretary of education “would make an important statement about the critical importance of the growing and significant Latino student population.”
President-elect Biden’s aspirations for education have not yet been clarified. Some members have expressed concern about the lack of Latina representation in his cabinet picks.
García’s History in Revolutionizing Education
García started as a cafeteria worker in Colorado Springs and some years after, obtained her degree in elementary education. She later started teaching middle school in Utah’s Granite School District.
She became active in the Granite Education Association until 1985, when she volunteered to serve on the bargaining committee.
In 1989, she was named Utah Teacher of the Year. In the same year, García took her first steps as an activist amid tension between teachers and the governor over tax cuts.
The state union seized the opportunity to make the state teacher of the year its public face and García was soon making multiple media appearances on the union’s behalf.
In 1990, García was elected president of the Utah Education Association over three other candidates — a landmark victory, as one unspoken rule among the NEA and its affiliates includes service as vice president before becoming president.