Senate Approves Jeb Bush’s Former Lt. Governor for Top Education Department Post

President of Florida Atlantic University Frank Brogan speaks during a Florida TaxWatch news conference announcing the release of the first in a series of reports on the status of education in Florida Monday May 17, 2004 in Coral Gables, Fla. (AP Photo/David Adame)
AP/David Adame

The Senate has approved Jeb Bush’s former lieutenant governor for the top U.S. Education Department post of assistant secretary of K-12 education.

Frank Brogan was confirmed by the Senate Monday as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continues to expand her department with colleagues of the former Florida governor who was a champion of the Common Core standards, amnesty for illegal immigrants, and school vouchers.

DeVos congratulated Brogan on his confirmation to the new role overseeing elementary and secondary education in the United States.

“Frank has spent much of his career tirelessly working on behalf of America’s students,” said DeVos. “As a former public school teacher and administrator, I know he will be vital to our work here at the Department. I am delighted to finally have him on our team.”

Prior to becoming Florida’s lieutenant governor, Brogan served as the state’s commissioner of education. A longstanding education bureaucrat, Education Week notes Brogan “held just about every possible job in K-12 education policy and instruction.”

Brogan had already been working in the federal education department as acting assistant secretary for post-secondary education.

DeVos and Bush have been colleagues for many years. The education secretary served as both a donor and board member of Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) prior to her confirmation.

Bush championed DeVos’s nomination as federal education secretary with the Trump administration within days of Donald Trump’s election victory. Bush asked DeVos if she would be interested in the education cabinet post and then asked Vice President-elect Mike Pence to recommend her for the job.

“He was really the only person I knew in the transition,” Bush told Tim Alberta, writing for Politico magazine. “He was the best person, because he was running it.”

Bush added that it turned out that both he and Pence – two former GOP governors – had the same thought since both had worked with DeVos to advance their education agendas in their home states of Florida and Indiana, respectively.

“He made it clear that he was already thinking about Betsy, too,” Bush said of Pence.

Once Trump formally nominated DeVos, Bush announced publicly he was “excited.”

DeVos addressed Bush’s foundation’s 10thannual summit last fall. Sponsors of the Bush foundation summit included the College Board, whose president is Common Core “architect” David Coleman; the Walton Family Foundation; ExxonMobil; textbook publishers Pearson and McGraw Hill; digital learning corporation Amplify; Charter Schools USA; and State Farm.

In April, the Senate also confirmed Carlos G. Muñiz as the education department’s general counsel. Muñiz previously served as deputy attorney general of the State of Florida and as deputy general counsel in the Office of Gov. Jeb Bush.

Brogan and Muñiz join other members of the education department staff with ties to Bush and Pence.

Writing at Truth in American Education, American Principles Project senior fellow Jane Robbins commented on how DeVos has “now surrounded herself not with representatives of the pro-constitutionalist, anti-Common Core wing of education but with Bush acolytes,” such as Brogan and Muñiz.

“Common Core is a good litmus test for ascertaining one’s education worldview generally,” she wrote regarding Brogan. “If he’s sympathetic to the idea of having national standards created by a central, unelected, unaccountable authority and ‘incentivizing’ states to adopt them and the aligned national tests, then there’s no serious argument he’ll stand strongly for state and local autonomy.”

As Robbins reported, when Brogan was asked whether the country was moving too fast on Common Core in 2013, he responded:

The standards are basically completed, and most people seem to suggest that they’re fair, they’re rigorous and they’re clear. Where we are now as a nation is trying to navigate the creation of that common assessment. That one is not only prickly, it’s political. And I think that before we rush into a common assessment — as people put deadlines on this process — in some cases, I believe those deadlines are unrealistic.

Brogan urged those tasked with implementing Common Core assessments to give teachers “a chance to build curriculum at the local level around those new standards, give school districts and parents the opportunity to understand those standards, and select supplemental materials and textbooks that can help achieve high quality in those standards before we get crazy as a nation about assessing anything.”

“[H]is failure to acknowledge the withering criticism of Common Core, even among expert academics who are intimately familiar with it (see here, here, and here), gives away the game,” Robbins wrote. “And his mentioning ‘local’ curriculum and better ‘understanding’ for parents falls flat. Curriculum is being churned out by national and international companies, not local teachers, and the more parents ‘understand’ Common Core, the more they hate it.”

DeVos has insisted that the federal Every Student Succeeds Act has ended Common Core – though most states are still using the unpopular standards even if under a different name.

 

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