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Margaret Spellings
Official Photo of Margaret Spellings.jpg
8th United States Secretary of Education
In office
January 20, 2005 – January 20, 2009
President George W. Bush
Deputy Raymond Simon
Preceded by Rod Paige
Succeeded by Arne Duncan
Director of the Domestic Policy Council
In office
January 30, 2002 – January 5, 2005
President George W. Bush
Preceded by John Bridgeland
Succeeded by Claude Allen
President of the University of North Carolina
In office
March 1, 2016 – March 1, 2019
Preceded by Thomas W. Ross
Succeeded by William L. Roper (interim)
Personal details
Margaret M. Dudar

(1957-11-30) November 30, 1957 (age 66)
Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouses Gregg LaMontagne (divorced)
Robert Spellings (divorced)
Children 2 daughters
Education University of Houston (BA)

Margaret M. LaMontagne Spellings (née Dudar; born November 30, 1957) is an American government and non-profit executive who has been serving as President and CEO of Texas 2036 since 2019. She previously served as the eighth United States secretary of education from 2005 to 2009. After leaving the government, Spellings served as president of the University of North Carolina System, overseeing the seventeen campus system from 2016 to 2019. In June 2023, Spellings was named the new CEO of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

Spellings worked in several positions under George W. Bush during his tenure as Governor of Texas and President of the United States. She was one of the principal proponents of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act that aimed at reforming primary and secondary education. She served as education secretary for the entire second term of Bush's administration, during which time she convened the Commission on the Future of Higher Education to recommend reform at the post-secondary level.

Early life and education

Margaret M. Dudar was born on November 30, 1957, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and moved with her family to Houston, Texas when she was in the third grade. She graduated from Sharpstown High School in 1975.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of Houston in 1979 and worked in an education reform commission under Texas Governor William P. Clements and as associate executive director for the Texas Association of School Boards. Before her appointment to George W. Bush's presidential administration, Spellings was the political director for Bush's first gubernatorial campaign in 1994, and later became a senior advisor to Bush during his Texas governorship from 1995 to 2000.

Secretary of Education

Margaret Spellings, official ed photo 3
Spellings' official Secretary of Education portrait

Following Rod Paige's departure as Secretary of Education, Spellings was nominated to that position by President George W. Bush on November 17, 2004, confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January 20, 2005, which also marked the beginning of Bush's second presidential term, and ceremonially sworn in on January 31 the same year. She was the second female Secretary of Education.

No Child Left Behind

Nancy Reagan Margaret Spellings speech 2008
Spellings delivers a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library; former first lady Nancy Reagan is seated at the right.

In April 2005, on PBS's The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, she called Connecticut's resistance to the No Child Left Behind Act the "soft bigotry of low expectations." According to the program's transcript, she said:

I think it's regrettable, frankly, when the achievement gap between African-American and Anglo kids in Connecticut is quite large. And I think it's unfortunate for those families and those students that they are trying to find a loophole to get out of the law as opposed to attending to the needs of those kids. That's the notion, the soft bigotry of low expectations, as the president calls it, that No Child Left Behind rejects.

Commission on the Future of Higher Education

In September 2005, Spellings announced the formation of the Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education, which has also been referred to as the Spellings Commission. The commission was charged with recommending a national strategy for reforming post-secondary education, with a particular focus on how well colleges and universities were preparing students for the 21st-century workplace. Controversial recommendations included a call for colleges and universities to focus on training students for the workforce and supporting research with commercial applications.

It had a secondary focus on how well high schools were preparing students for post-secondary education. Spellings described the work of the commission as a natural extension into higher education of the reforms carried out under No Child Left Behind, and is quoted as saying: "It's time we turn this elephant around and upside down and take a look at it."

Post-Government tenure

After leaving her role as Secretary of Education, she founded Margaret Spellings & Company, an education consulting firm in Washington, D.C. She was a senior advisor to the Boston Consulting Group and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Spellings is currently co-chair of the Future of Tech Commission alongside Jim Steyer of Common Sense Media, an organization that focuses on technology and privacy policy.

President of the University of North Carolina (UNC)

Margaret Spellings in April 2014
Spellings at the LBJ Presidential Library in 2014

On October 23, 2015, Spellings was elected as the president of the University of North Carolina system by the board of governors, effective March 1, 2016. She succeeded Thomas W. Ross, who was fired by the Board of Governors in a controversial move that some believed was motivated by politics. She is the second woman to serve as president of the University of North Carolina. In her role as president, she oversaw the seventeen constituent institutions that make up the UNC system, each having its own chancellor that serves as the chief executive on the local campus. Her base salary was $775,000.

Removal of Confederate Statue

On August 20, 2018, anti-racist protesters toppled the Silent Sam statue at University of North Carolina. Ms. Spellings in a joint statement said that "The actions last evening were unacceptable, dangerous, and incomprehensible." "We are a nation of laws and mob rule and the intentional destruction of public property will not be tolerated."


In October 2018, Spellings announced that she was resigning, effective March 1, 2019.

Future of Tech Commission

Spelling launched the Future of Tech Commission with Common Sense Media founder Jim Steyer and former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick in April 2021. As co-chairs, this commission will compile solutions for a comprehensive tech policy agenda under President Biden and Congress on topics as privacy, antitrust, digital dequity, and content moderation/platform accountability.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Margaret Spellings para niños

  • List of female United States Cabinet members
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