March 11, 2010

Ex-Maine House speaker named to education post


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Glen Cummings

Karen Mills
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Karen Mills


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Staff Writer

Former Maine Speaker of the House Glenn Cummings, a Bath native, was the first in his family to get a bachelor's degree, graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University.

Starting next month, he will be working with President Obama's administration to get more Americans to enroll in college, including those age 25 to 55 who will need new skills and training to re-enter or remain in the work force.

Cummings, 48, of Portland, was named this week to become deputy assistant secretary of education, a member of the new administration's Office of Vocational and Adult Education.

The United States was ''No. 1 in adults with college degrees in the 1950s, '60s, '70s and '80s. Now we've dropped behind a dozen countries,'' Cummings said. ''To get back to No. 1, we can't just get large percentages of high school students to attend college. We have to get adults back in the work force through education.''

Cummings, a former history and economics teacher at Gorham High School, was offered the administration post by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Cummings was an early supporter of Obama's candidacy, the first high-profile Maine politician to publicly back him in the Democratic primary and a co-chairman of his state finance committee.

Obama shines as an example of someone who has achieved in large part because of the commitment by him and his family to his education, Cummings said.

Cummings said his early support for Obama might have helped get him noticed for the education opening, but his interview with Duncan dealt solely with education policy, not politics. Cummings said he also benefitted from the support of the state's congressional delegation and Gov. John Baldacci, who serves with Duncan on the national board of Jobs for American Graduates.

Baldacci said in a statement that Cummings is a good pick for the national education post.

''Throughout his career, Glenn has demonstrated the highest commitment to quality education available to students at every level,'' Baldacci said. ''As a teacher, administrator and speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, Glenn has made education in our state stronger and more accessible. He will be an excellent addition to the Obama administration.''

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, recommended Cummings to Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and wrote letters on his behalf.

''Whether it was investing in Maine's community colleges, creating stronger partnerships between high schools and the local business community or strengthening the programs in our public schools, Glenn has always advocated an innovative educational system that fosters student development and equips our youth with the educational tools they require to succeed,'' Snowe said in a statement.

Cummings said the Office of Vocational and Adult Education will play an important role in current educational initiatives.

''The new secretary of education has now talked about taking that and making it a center for college access and career development, making sure there's a good transition between high school and the university and community colleges,'' Cummings said.

Improvement will require making college more accessible and convincing people to enroll, especially people who are older and are already responsible for children, mortgages and full-time jobs, he said.

As House chairman of the Education Committee in 2002, Cummings sponsored the bill to take Maine's technical colleges and transform them into the community college system. The change contributed to increased enrollment systemwide by roughly 40 percent, and a doubling of enrollment at Southern Maine Community College, which he said is among the fastest-growing community colleges in the country.

Cummings also was an advocate for a statewide policy requiring all graduating high school seniors to fill out a college application, which he said has raised the aspirations of many Maine graduates.

He has master's degrees from two Ivy League schools and is pursuing a doctorate at a third.

He has been working recently as a dean at Southern Maine Community College.

Cummings will leave that post to take the Washington job on May 4. The position does not require confirmation, and he has completed the required White House screening, he said.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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Additional Photos

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John Ewing/Staff Photographer: 20070619 Tuesday, June 19, 2007....Maine State Legislature nears the end of its current session in Augusta. Speaker of the House, Glenn Cummings, calls out the results of a vote during session on Tuesday, June 19, 2007.

Susan Rice
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Susan Rice


Barack Obama, George Mitchell
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Barack Obama, George Mitchell


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Presidential Inaugural Committee 2009 photo Emmett Beliveau


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