The confirmation of nominee Betsy Devos for Education Secretary has been postponed several times now which has given grass roots and private interests time to make their opposition to her appointment known to those on the Senate HELP committee. Her extremely weak knowledge of the scope and purpose of IDEA for those with disabilities was a major flaw in her statements before the committee. Even her own alma mater Cavlin College in Grand Rapids MI has come out to oppose her confirmation with a letter signed by seven hundred alumni and students questioning her lack of experience in the public school system and her commitment to protecting it. Those who read MEW already know of her now questionable stance on Common Core. If opposition to CC, which Trump promised to get rid of during the campaign, is your top issue for the USED, Devos’s confirmation may be the least of your worries when you see who has already been sworn in below her.

Appointed staff sworn in last Friday include:

Jason Botel, executive director of the Maryland education advocacy group MarylandCAN, is coming on as a senior White House adviser for education. He’ll work closely with Acting Education Secretary Phil Rosenfelt to lead the new team. Botel was on a panel at the Maryland Policy Forum called Education Challenges Ahead where he stated his support for the standards.

“I’m very excited about Common Core”… “I insist on Common Core”…”Common Core is a necessary first step” to prepare students for college and collect needed data to compare students nationally.

Botel’s comments on Common Core start at 36:00.

Josh Venable, who helped prepare Betsy DeVos for her confirmation hearing and is considered a top candidate for chief of staff. He was at various times Chief of Staff, Operations Director and Finance Director for the Michigan Republican Party. Venable was National Director of Advocacy and Legislation for the Jeb Bush-founded Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) which was very pro common core and pro testing. His role there was to make sure FEE’s policies became national policies. Those who didn’t want Jeb Bush at President because of his whole connection to FEE, may still get all that political influence with the appointment of Venable under anyone at the top of USED.

Jim Manning,  who served as the Chief of Staff to the Deputy Education Secretary in the George W. Bush administration and as the acting Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid in the Obama administration. He led the landing team at the department during the transition to the Trump administration to ease tensions between political appointees and current staff members at the Department. Manning was the Ambassador to National Center for Education Statistics and Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education. According to ProctorU Manning’s appointment brings along some baggage. “During his time as Chief of Staff, the department was scrutinized for “loose financial oversight” and “fraudulent purchases” that were made by employees. When Manning was acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, some criticized the office for “weakening Title IX’s gender-equity requirements.”

Andrew Kossack, the former commissioner of the Indiana Department of Revenue and former Deputy Policy Director for Next Generation Reform at FEE, remember big fans of Common Core. He was also the Senior Program Director at the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation which gave $3 million to The Mind Trust in Indiana which promotes alternatives to traditional public school including charters.

Stanley Buchesky will work on budget and finance issues at USED. He is a former managing partner at the venture capital firm The EdTech Fund which provides capital to emerging businesses which support alternatives to traditional public schools. They are strong believers in personalized learning and using technology to make this alternative to public school possible. This is interesting since the Hechinger Report just wrote for US News that personalized learning and Common Core may be mortal enemies. “[A]s more schools, districts, states and even the federal government begin to embrace the idea, personalized learning is coming into conflict with an older movement in American education: standards-based accountability…Grade-level standards – the content and skills students are supposed to master each year – and the end-of-year tests that measure them aren’t forgiving to schools and teachers who stray far from the predetermined path.” Buchesky’s resume also includes work as a trustee for a charter school in the Bronx (Equality Charter school) and Senior Director for Mergers and Acquisitions at McGraw Hill.

There will be several currently serving USED employees who will sty on under the new administration. They include:

Joe Conaty in the Office of the Deputy Secretary, former Director of the Academic Improvement and Teacher Quality Programs in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education under Bush. In previous assignments, Dr. Conaty served the Department of Education’s Acting Director of the Office of Research; Director of the National Institute on Student Achievement, Curriculum, and Assessment; and Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Sandra Battle in the Office for Civil Rights. She has been an attorney in the Office of Civil Right since at least 2004. Payscale records do not go beyond that year. Tenure works well in government as you can see from which reports that Sandra “is a ES-00 under the senior executive service payscale and is among the highest-paid ten percent of employees in the Office for Civil Rights.”

Monique Chism will stay on in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. Her office bio says she “joined the Department in January 2013 as member of the Senior Executive Service and is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Programs in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE). In this role she serves as a principal advisor to the Assistant Secretary on grant programs and initiatives in the Offices of Academic Improvement, Safe and Healthy Students, School Support and Rural Programs, Impact Aid Program, Migrant Education, and Indian Education. Previously, Dr. Chism served as the Director of the Office of Student Achievement and School Accountability and then transitioned to lead the new Office of State Support (OSS) in OESE. Prior to joining the department, Dr. Chism held a number of positions in the field of education as a teacher, researcher, and state policy maker at the Illinois State Board of Education, where she served as the Assistant Superintendent for Innovation and Improvement.” Her role in the Grant Programs and Office of Academic Improvement no doubt put her close to Duncan’s waiver scheme to keep states in Common Core.

Lynn Mahaffie will continue in the Office of Postsecondary Education and the Office of the Under Secretary. She has been the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Planning, and Innovation (PPI) in the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE). “She is responsible for policy development (including regulatory activities) relating to the Federal student aid programs which award more than $160 billion to more than 25 million students each year. Lynn is also responsible for regulatory activities affecting grant programs administered by OPE.” She has been in the USED for 21 years.

Manning and other members of the new administration’s team were sworn in Friday and the responsibilities of these individuals are still being finalized.

Debbie Cox-Roush as Special Assistant to the Secretary at U.S. Department of Education former Event planner
Holly Ham as Special Assistant to the Secretary at U.S. Department of Education, former Program Adviser – Data Operations to the Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. campaign, and former Hewlett Packard Executive.
Kevin Eck former Director of Operations Indiana Public Charter Schools Association
Teresa UnRue who worked as a graphic designer and field organizer for Trump’s South Carolina advance team. She has her own share of controversy.
Amy Jones former CEO, Professional Development and Accountability at NYC Department of Education
Eric Ventimiglia – Heavy connections in Michigan as a former Constituent Relations Manager and Field Representative for the House Republican  Campaign Committee.
Derrick Bolen former Regional Field Director Republican National Committee?

Other names joining the team include:

— Ron Holden
— Cody J. Reynolds
— Patrick Shaheen
— Beatriz Ramos
— Jerry Ward
— Patrick Young
Whether Devos is for Common Core or not may be totally irrelevant when considering those working under her.

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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