Education Week - April 19, 2017 - 18
New Hires Fill Empty Policy Spots at Ed. Dept.
Some serve in acting roles,
no confirmations needed
By Alyson Klein
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has
announced a slate of hires for key positions in
the Department of Education-many of whom
have been working in the agency since the beginning of the Trump administration in unofficial
Only one of these appointees has received a formal nomination from the White House and will
need Senate confirmation. But some will be serving in an "acting" capacity in positions that they
could be formally nominated to later, although
there is no guarentee they will be.
For instance, Candice Jackson, who previously
worked as a lawyer in private practice in Vancouver, Wash., will be a deputy assistant secretary
in the office for civil rights and acting assistant
secretary. Neither position requires Senate confirmation, but if Jackson were to be nominated
as assistant secretary, she would need Senate approval.
Jackson is likely to prove the most controversial of the latest appointees. She is the author
of a 2005 book, Their Lives: Women Targeted by
the Clinton Machine, that focused on women
who said they were harassed or intimidated
by President Bill Clinton and his supporters,
and highlighted instances in which Clinton was
accused of sexually assaulting them. She also
coordinated a public event featuring several of
these women during the 2016 presidential contest against Hillary Clinton, with then-candidate Donald Trump's support.
Her prospective appointment to the top position
at the agency overseeing students' civil rights
protections has left some advocates jittery.
Liz King, the director of education policy for
Case May Hold
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worship, teach, pray, and practice
any other aspect of its faith however it wishes. The state merely
declines to offer financial support."
On April 13, Gov. Eric R.Greitens,
a Republican, said the state would
no longer bar religious groups
from the recycled-tire grant program, saying he did not expect
the change to affect the Supreme
Cases in the Wings
The case has drawn significant interest from groups that are more interested in what the court's eventual
decision may mean for school choice.
The Supreme Court ruled in its
landmark 2002 decision in Zelman
v. Simmons-Harris that the federal
Constitution's establishment clause
did not prohibit the inclusion of
religious schools in a government
voucher program when parents are
making the decision where to direct
the state aid.
But the state Blaine amendments
the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human
Rights, is hoping the Senate will take a hard
look at Jackson if she is officially nominated for
the assistant secretary post. "We just don't have
very much information" about her and her background, King said. "We have not heard of a longstanding commitment to federal civil rights and
dignity of every student in the United States."
Jason Botel, a former charter school operator
who had been serving as a senior White House
adviser, will be a deputy assistant secretary for
elementary and secondary education and will
serve as acting assistant secretary of that office,
which is likely to play a central role in overseeing
implementation of the Every Student Succeeds
Act. Botel does not need Senate confirmation for
this acting role, but would need Senate approval
to officially take over the office.
Filling the Boxes
The personnel announcements-and particularly, the selection of Botel as the acting assistant
secretary for the office that most directly oversees
K-12 policy-"is a clear sign that Secretary DeVos
and her team know they have important official
[business], especially on ESSA implementation,
that must get underway," said Andy Smarick, a
senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank that has received donations
from DeVos and her family.
Nine states and the District of Columbia earlier
this month turned in their plans to implement the
law, and a half-dozen more are on the way. The
department has about three months to respond.
Among other new hires:
* James Manning, tapped as a senior adviser
to the undersecretary and acting undersecretary, a key position for higher education. If
Manning were officially nominated as undersecretary, he would need Senate confirmation.
Manning previously served as chief of staff to
Deputy Secretary William Hansen during Presi-
have proved to be a barrier to the
inclusion of religious schools in
voucher programs and some other
forms of state aid.
The National Education Association, which has often led the
legal fight against the expansion
of school voucher programs, filed
a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Missouri emphasizing the
theory that states may use their
own constitutions to provide
stronger individual rights than
those guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
"Many state courts have departed
from this court's establishment
clause precedents in construing
their state constitutions to prohibit
public funding of religion in ways
that would be permissible under
the establishment clause," the NEA
Even as it considers the merits of
the Trinity Lutheran case, the high
court is holding on to two cases that
address the application of state
Blaine amendments to aid to religious schools.
One involves a New Mexico textbook-lending program for private
schools and a New Mexico Supreme
Court decision that Blaine amendment-like language in the state
constitution barred the inclusion of
religious schools in the program.
The other involves the unusual
efforts by the Douglas County,
18 | EDUCATION WEEK | April 19, 2017 | www.edweek.org
dent George W. Bush's administration. In that
role, Manning helped oversee federal studentfinancial-aid programs. Later, Manning served
in the Obama administration as acting chief
operating officer of student financial aid.
* One person has been officially nominated
by the White House to a Senate-confirmable
post: Carlos Muñiz, named as general counsel.
Muñiz was most recently a senior vice president
at the consulting firm McGuire Woods and was
the deputy state attorney general and chief of
staff to Pam Bondi, Florida's attorney general;
Bondi is a Trump ally. Before that, he was deputy general counsel under former Florida Gov.
* Josh Venable, chosen as chief of staff, worked
in politics in DeVos' home state of Michigan. He
was also the national director of advocacy and
legislation at the Foundation for Education Excellence, a research and advocacy organization
started by Jeb Bush.
* Ebony Lee, picked as as a deputy chief of
staff for policy, worked in the office for innovation and improvement during the Bush administration, from 2005 to 2007. Since then, she
has been focused on charter policy at the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation.
* Jana Toner was named as White House liaison, a position she also held during the George W.
* Robert Eitel, named as a senior counsel to the
secretary, most recently worked on regulatory issues for Bridgepoint Education, which runs forprofit universities. He also served as a deputy
general counsel in the department under George
* Jose Viana, appointed as assistant deputy
secretary and director of the office of Englishlanguage acquisition. Viana is a former elementary and middle school teacher and school administrator, who most recently served as North
Carolina's program administrator for migrant
Colo., public school district to create a tuition-scholarship program
for students to attend private
schools, including religious schools.
The Colorado Supreme Court has
blocked the program based on a
Blaine-like, "no aid" provision in
the state constitution.
Breaking New Ground?
The school district, the state, and
a group of intervening parents in
the Colorado case all appealed to
the U.S. Supreme Court. Like the
New Mexico appeal, the Colorado
parties urge the court to rule that
the state Blaine amendments violate federal constitutional rights of
religious schools or parents.
The Douglas County district, the
state, and the parents also have
filed separate friend-of-the-court
briefs in support of Trinity Lutheran.
"Both the Colorado and Missouri
Blaine amendments share discriminatory, anti-Catholic origins
that make their contemporary use
to compel religious discrimination
particularly unacceptable," says the
brief for the Douglas County district
filed by Paul D. Clement, a former
U.S. solicitor general and now a frequent litigator for private clients
before the high court.
Bindas of the Institute for Justice represents the intervening
parents who want to use the scholarships in Douglas County.
"A big question here is whether
the court is going to go into the history of the Blaine amendments" in
the Trinity Lutheran case, Bindas
said. "Strictly speaking, the court
doesn't have to rule on the history
of the Blaine amendments to rule
for the church here."
Many legal experts agree with
that assessment, saying the Supreme Court, which is back at full
strength with the addition of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, could rule
for Trinity Lutheran on narrow
grounds and save the debate over
the state Blaine amendments for
"I don't see this case as breaking new ground," said Michael
W. McConnell, a former federal
appeals-court judge and a leading
church-state scholar who teaches
at Stanford University law school.
He has joined a brief in support of
Trinity Lutheran. "I see it as standing for long-standing principles that
the government has to be neutral
between religious and nonreligious
However, Green, the Willamette
University scholar, is worried that
because the Supreme Court is taking up a case involving direct funding to a church, that "suggests to
me that they are thinking of doing
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trict's robust school choice options.
States differed in the number of
outside factors they picked. Connecticut, for example, has nine indicators beyond the test scores and
graduation rates required under
ESSA. New Jersey has just one,
States are also incorporating subjects beyond just reading and math
into their plans. Several states are
including science. And Delaware is
adding both science and social studies to the mix.
Among those that have submitted plans so far, all but Vermont
planned to issue schools overall,
summative ratings in some fashion.
Their approaches to these ratings
also varied. Connecticut would like to
use a score based on an index using
0-100 points, while New Mexico and
Tennessee plan to issue A-F grades
for schools. And Illinois plans to use
a four-tiered system to rate schools,
from "exemplary" to "lowest-performing." Vermont will issue five different
ratings covering various accountability indicators.
ESSA gives states and districts
nearly all control over school improvement. Some states aren't considering big changes to their current
systems, developed under NCLB.
Massachusetts, for instance, is
essentially sticking with its strategy of offering extra support to districts with long-struggling schools,
with an option of state control for
districts that have perennially
failed to make progress. The state's
turnaround process is seen by
many experts as a national model.
Other states, though, are using
ESSA as an opportunity to try
something brand new on the school
improvement front. Nevada, for instance, is establishing an "achievement school district," similar to
what has been tried in Tennessee.
The achievement school district
would offer intensive support to up
to six long-struggling schools.
But overall, Scott Sargrad, the
managing director for K-12 education policy at the Center for American Progress, said he sees a lot of
similarities between these initial
ESSA plans and the systems states
crafted to get waivers from many of
the mandates of the NCLB law.
"Generally, things don't look that
different," said Sargrad, who worked
on waivers when he served in the
department during the Obama administration.
He thinks that could change as
more states file their plans. States
could be taking the extra time because they are envisioning big departures from their waivers.
It could be that the later states
are the ones that will want to make
significant changes to their systems
about what to focus on, Sargrad