Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Announces Key Senior Staff

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos addresses the department staff at the Department of Education on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017 in Washington. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
AP/Molly Riley

U.S. Education Department (USED) Secretary Betsy DeVos made her first official announcement of senior staff hires Wednesday.

Constitutionalists and anti-Common Core grassroots activists have expressed disapproval at the number of USED hires with links to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his foundation, as well as to other supporters of Common Core.

Among the new hires, for example, is Josh Venable, who will serve as DeVos’s chief of staff. Like DeVos, Venable worked with Bush at his Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE).

Jason Botel has been named as deputy assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education and acting assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education. Botel served as executive director of the Maryland education advocacy group MarylandCAN – which was financed by Bill Gates – and has a history of support for Common Core.

Trump has also formally nominated Carlos Muñiz to the post of general counsel at the USED, one that requires Senate confirmation. Muñiz served as former attorney to Jeb Bush when the latter was governor of Florida.

James Manning will serve as senior adviser to the undersecretary and acting undersecretary. Manning led the landing team at the USED throughout the Trump transition.

At least one new USED hire, however, has the approval of anti-Common Core constitutionalists: Robert Eitel, who will serve as senior counselor to DeVos.

Eitel authored – along with Kent Talbert and Bill Evers – the Pioneer Institute’s report titled “The Road to a National Curriculum: The Legal Aspects of the Common Core Standards, Race to the Top, and Conditional Waivers.”

“The Department has designed a system of discretionary grants and conditional waivers that effectively herds states into accepting specific standards and assessments favored by the Department,” Eitel noted.

When one of the Common Core test consortia stated that it intends to use federal funds to support curriculum materials and create a “model curriculum” and instructional materials aligned with the Core, Eitel responded, “Frankly, this makes sense. How can one design assessments without taking into account what is taught? But the legal concern is that these federally funded assessments will ultimately direct the course of elementary and secondary course content across the nation.”

“Bob Eitel is an attorney with an impeccable record of public service, previously serving as deputy general counsel at the U.S. Department of Education,” Jamie Gass, director of the Center for School Reform at the Boston-based Pioneer Institute, tells Breitbart News, adding that Eitel’s paper “was among the best papers Pioneer Institute has produced in its nearly 30-year history, and was punctuated by its understanding of and fidelity to the proper implementation of federal laws.”

“Any public administration would want an attorney of Bob’s experience and integrity making legal decisions at the highest levels of government,” Gass adds.

The USED has also confirmed that Candice Jackson will serve as the deputy assistant secretary in the Office for Civil Rights and acting assistant secretary. Jackson recently represented Kathy Shelton, who was 12-years-old in 1975 when Hillary Clinton defended the rapist who assaulted her. Shelton attended a news conference prior to one of the presidential debates in October.

Jackson told American Thinker that Clinton, “unethically and immorally blamed a twelve-year-old victim.”

A report in the New York Times cites Jackson’s appointment, as well as the nomination of Muñiz:

The posts are among the most high profile in the department. Staffing in the Office for Civil Rights has been a source of concern for civil rights advocates ever since the Trump administration rescinded protections for transgender students as one of its first education policy moves.

The appointments have been met with trepidation from advocates who are anxious about the future of the Office for Civil Rights, which gained a higher profile under President Barack Obama as it focused policy as much on equity in education as on achievement.

The USED says it will announce additional hires in the near future.


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