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Class Notes May 2004: Volume 1, Number 2

Educating Congress
Terrell Lynn Halaska, ’89


Assistant Secretary of Education Terrell Lynn Halaska, ’89, is an expert on the workings of Capitol Hill. In recent years, she’s served as a congressional press aide, as a deputy chief of staff at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and also as a domestic policy advisor in the George W. Bush White House.

Confirmed by the U.S. Senate last July to be the next Education Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs, the 38-year-old Halaska now finds herself as point woman for Bush’s 2006 education agenda in congress.
A winter-weary Chicago-area native who followed her older sister Jill out to sunny UCSD in the mid-1980s, Halaska says she benefited greatly from a University-sponsored study-abroad program in her junior year. “I spent that entire school year at the University of Lyon, in France,” she recalls, “and it was extremely interesting to sit in on international relations classes and see how things looked from a European perspective.”

Inspired by those classes, Halaska earned a master’s degree in Policy Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies before setting off for Washington and her first job as a press aide to Wisconsin GOP Congressman Scott Klug.

“I have a real passion for policy issues,” Halaska says, “especially those that affect the children of this country.” Halaska battled hard behind the scenes for Bush’s 2002 “ No Child Left Behind” elementary school assistance program.

“The data are now beginning to emerge,” she says. “And they show that initiatives of this kind can be very helpful in getting kids off to a good start in the classroom. I think this is a model program that we can all learn from.” So what’s the biggest challenge she faces in her new job? “We’ve got one million public high school students dropping out each year in this country, and it’s costing the economy at least $260 billion per year.

“That’s an economic issue, and it’s also a national security issue. The high school dropout rate is an urgent problem, and we have to do everything we can to fix it.”

— Tom Nugent

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