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Former teachers union chief vying for education secretary

FILE - In this Nov. 1, 2017, file photo, National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia speaks at a news conference on American labor on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 1, 2017, file photo, National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia speaks at a news conference on American labor on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The former president of the nation’s largest teachers union has received endorsements from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and dozens of national Hispanic organizations as she pursues the top job at the U.S. Education Department in the Biden administration.

Lily Eskelsen García, who was president of the National Education Association until September, has been calling members of Congress to build support for her candidacy. She has been courting Democrats and some Republicans, including Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, who is chairman of the Senate education committee and a former education secretary.

Her supporters have ramped up lobbying efforts on her behalf, urging President-elect Joe Biden to nominate her and, in doing so, appoint the first Latina to lead the Education Department. Biden has faced mounting pressure to fulfill his promise to build a racially diverse Cabinet, with some civil rights activists fearing he will fall short. Several prominent Black educators are also seen as candidates for the education post.

Eskelsen García did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a letter to Biden on Monday, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus offered its “enthusiastic endorsement" for Eskelsen García, saying her ties to Congress position her well for Senate confirmation. The caucus drew attention to Biden's proposals to confront racial disparities in education, saying Eskelsen García has been pursuing that work for decades.

“Lily’s long record of accomplishments, working across the political divide, and building and maintaining constituencies would make her an excellent Secretary of Education,” according to the letter, which is signed by 23 members.

Last week she also received the endorsement of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of more than 40 Hispanic civil rights and public policy groups. The coalition sent a letter to Biden on Friday calling Eskelsen García the ideal candidate to steer away from the “destructive practices and policies of the Trump Administration.”

The endorsement was proposed by Juan Andrade, who is president of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute and has known Eskelsen García for years. He said Eskelsen García sought his advice after her name was first floated as a candidate. Once she decided to seek the nomination, he asked Andrade for his public support, he said.