U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander today received the top honor of the nation’s chief state school officers, the Distinguished Service Award, at their 2007 Legislative Conference.
Alexander was nominated by Lana Seivers, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education for Gov. Phil Bredesen (D-TN), who called Alexander a “staunch advocate for American students and a leading innovator in public education reform. Despite coming from different sides of the aisle, he and governor Bredesen work closely together and both publicly and privately I’ve heard the governor say how much he values Senator Alexander’s experience and knowledge,” Seivers said.
Previous recipients of the award include former Governor Mark Warner (D-VA), former President Bill Clinton, The Milken Family Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates, U.S. Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and James Jeffords (I-VT), former North Carolina Governor James B. Hunt (D-NC), former U.S. Representative William F. Goodling (R-PA), former American Federation of Teachers President Albert Shanker and former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley.
“I’m grateful for this award, and for the good work of the Council,” Alexander said. “States and chief state school officers play a critical role in ensuring our students’ and country’s success, particularly as we work together on the next stages of standards-based reform in the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.”
The award, which for 47 years has been “given annually to a person or persons outside the Council’s membership who have shown leadership and/or contributed to the advancement of education,” was announced in November, but Alexander was unable to travel to Arkansas to receive it.
During his tenure as governor of Tennessee, Alexander became chairman of the National Governors Association (NGA) and led a multi-year education initiative designed to encourage states to use data and results as guides in improving schools, inspiring the NGA’s keystone 50-state survey for the initiative, Time for Results. As U.S. Secretary of Education for President George H.W. Bush, Alexander helped create higher national academic standards, among other initiatives.
Alexander is managing floor debate on the America COMPETES Act, broad-based legislation aimed at preserving America’s “brainpower” advantage and improving our global economic competitiveness by increasing educational opportunities in math and science, as well as research funding. He sits on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. He has also served as president of the University of Tennessee and was Goodman professor at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.