Ted Mitchell, former president of Occidental College and president of a "venture philanthropy" fund focused on elementary and secondary education reform, is reportedly in line for a top position at the U.S. Education Department, according to Politico and other sources. Politico reported late Tuesday that Mitchell would be nominated as U.S. under secretary of education, replacing Martha J. Kanter, who announced this summer that she would return to California this fall. But other sources said that Mitchell might be named to a position that did not require Senate confirmation, given the difficulty of getting anyone through that gauntlet these days. A spokesman for the Education Department referred inquiries to a White House spokesman, who said he had no news to share about appointments.
Mitchell rose through the academic ranks as an education professor and administrator, and mostly at highly selective institutions such as Dartmouth College, Stanford University, and the University of California at Los Angeles (dean of the Graduate School of Education). As president of Occidental (which President Obama attended as an undergraduate), he was known for helping to diversify the student body of the selective private institution. "My area of scholarly interest, my area of teaching and policy work has been in educational access and opportunity," Mitchell told the Los Angeles Times upon his departure from Occidental in 2005. (Note: This article has been updated to correct President Obama's relationship to Occidental.)
He left there to take the reins of the New Schools Venture Fund, which has close ties to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other philanthropies interested in using technology and other tools of change to reform education. The fund's "core values" page uses phrases like "entrepreneurship" and "results-oriented" that are likely to align closely with Education Secretary Arne Duncan's modus operandi.