While testifying before the Michigan State Senate's Education Committee on Feb. 28, Gary Naeyaert said he wanted to "shake" a public official "like I like to shake my wife." Naeyaert was the head of a school choice advocacy group founded by Education Secretary Betsy Devos. (Michigan State Senate)

Gary Naeyaert, executive director of a school choice advocacy group founded in 2001 by current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her husband, has resigned after he said he wanted to “shake” a public official “like I like to shake my wife.”

A statement on the website of the Great Lakes Education Project by Chairman Jim Barrett says:

March 7, 2017 — Effective today, Gary Naeyaert has resigned his position as Executive Director. GLEP appreciates his nearly four years of leadership and passionate advocacy for school choice, and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.

The U.S. Education Department did not comment on the resignation.

On Feb. 28, Naeyaert was testifying before the Michigan Senate Education Committee — whose membership is all male — when he referred to Natasha Baker, the head of Michigan’s School Reform Office. He said:

“I wanted to, you know, I wanted to shake her, like I like to shake my wife, when every option in front of you is, you know, not possible. They’re all equally unattractive to you. Like when I ask her where to go to dinner, she says, ‘Anywhere,’ and I say, ‘Steak ‘n Shake,’ and she says, ‘Not Steak ‘n Shake.’

 

The Great Lakes Education Project was founded by DeVos and her husband, Dick, in 2001. It calls itself, according to its website, “a bi-partisan, non-profit advocacy organization supporting quality choices in public education for all Michigan students.” It has been in the forefront of school choice advocacy efforts in Michigan, and critics say its work is aimed at privatizing public education.

Betsy DeVos has served as chairman of the board of GLEP, as has her husband, and the couple have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the organization, as have other members of their extended family.

Here’s the full statement from GLEP: