U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has chosen, as a new department staff member, a former Indiana education official who also worked for years at former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s education foundation.
Education media Chalkbeat reports Neil Ruddock has been working for the federal education department since early February after four years as regional advocacy director at Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), where DeVos also served as a board member and to which she provided financial contributions.
Ruddock’s name appears on a ProPublica list of Trump administration officials who do not require scrutiny by the U.S. Senate.
Before joining Bush’s foundation (where DeVos served on the board) in 2012, Ruddock headed school choice programs in Indiana’s education department policy and research office for three years. During his tenure, the state launched and then expanded a school voucher program that could be a model as DeVos seeks to expand school choice across the country.
On his LinkedIn page, Ruddock describes his work at Bush’s FEE:
Connected Foundation policy experts to state legislators, executive branch staff and local education advocacy groups;
- Provided policy feedback on school choice legislation and regulations;
- Authored blog posts for the Foundation’s “EdFly” blog and assisted the Foundation’s communications staff with Midwest-related materials;
- Developed briefing materials for Foundation leadership visits to state capitols
While serving as director of school choice programs in the Indiana Department of Education, Ruddock says he:
- Oversaw Indiana’s Choice Scholarship program, which enrolled over 3900 students in Year 1 despite a (short) 10-week application period and tight implementation window;
- Also managed Indiana’s tax credit scholarship program;
- Prior to running Indiana’s choice programs, served IDOE as policy advisor and helped develop the framework for Indiana’s Putting Students First legislative agenda enacted in 2011
Ruddock also served as a policy analyst for Educational Testing Service (ETS) from 2005 to 2008, where he “served as a liaison between ETS executives in Princeton and its lobbyists in key state capitols,” and “analyzed state policy trends in assessment.”
Other U.S. education department staffers who worked for Bush’s pro-Common Core foundation and for the Indiana education department include Andrew Kossack, who is listed as a “special assistant to the secretary.” Kossack is an attorney who was appointed as Indiana Department of Revenue commissioner under former Gov. Mike Pence. Prior to that position, he served as general counsel to Indiana’s ousted superintendent of education, Tony Bennett, who championed the adoption of the Common Core standards in the state. Bennett then became the Florida commissioner of education and was later investigated for fraud and resigned after allegations that he intervened in the grading system in Indiana to favor a charter school run by a prominent Republican Party donor.
Rob Goad, an aide to Indiana Rep. Luke Messer, served as the main advisor to the Trump administration on education policy during the transition, reports Politico.
Messer, a supporter of school choice, backed Bush in the GOP primary, as reported by The Hill.
“I’ve watched this primary carefully and believe Jeb Bush is uniquely qualified to lead our nation out of the morass created by the current administration,” Messer said November 2015. “Jeb’s record in Florida proves he’s a man of his word, a true conservative reformer who can change Washington and fix the big things that are broken with our federal government. I’m all in for Jeb, and think he would make a terrific Commander-in-Chief.”
Another current U.S. education department staff member who worked with Bush at his foundation is Josh Venable, listed now as “senior advisor to the secretary.”