Donald Trump is president, but the leadership in the U.S. Education Department looks increasingly as if it was picked by his former rival, Jeb Bush, who was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007 and a controversial education reformer.
Bush was a pioneer of what became known as the “corporate school reform” movement that sought to operate public schools as if they were for-profit businesses. He created a “Florida Formula” of school changes that other states adopted, including state “report cards” that assign letter grades to schools based largely on test scores. He also supported the expansion of charter schools and the use of public money for private and religious school tuition.
Bush created the Foundation for Excellence in Education to carry on his education work after he left office, though his legacy became controversial. The standardized testing system he created in Florida led to a revolt by superintendents, while the Common Core State Standards he championed fell out of favor, and the charter school sector in the state was hit by repeated scandal.
Still, Bush’s education views are more than well-represented at the Trump Education Department.
- The U.S. Senate just confirmed Frank Brogan as assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education. Brogan was Florida’s education commissioner and then became Bush’s lieutenant governor from 1999 to 2003. Brogan was also a teacher, principal and superintendent.
- The Senate recently confirmed as No. 2 at the department Mitchell Zais, a former South Carolina state schools superintendent and former president of a college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In 2016, Zais called Jeb Bush “the only candidate” prepared to be president.
- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a longtime ally of Bush’s and repeatedly has pointed to school changes started under Bush in Florida as models for the nation. She was a board member of Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, which he created to carry on his education work after leaving the governorship, and he supported her nomination by Trump to run the department.
- The Senate also recently confirmed Carlos G. Muñiz as the Education Department’s general counsel. Muñiz served as deputy general counsel for Bush when Bush was governor.
- James Blew, who has been nominated to be assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development, was the director of K-12 reform at the Walton Family Foundation, and under his leadership, the foundation donated millions of dollars to Bush’s foundation.
- DeVos’s chief of staff, Josh Venable, worked for Bush’s foundation and on his 2016 presidential campaign.
Several men working in the Education Department under DeVos worked for Jeb Bush’s brother, former president George W. Bush:
- Kenneth Marcus, who the Senate recently confirmed as assistant secretary for civil rights, held the same civil rights duties at the department during the administration of George W. Bush.
- Mark Schneider, who has been confirmed by the Senate to be director of the Institute of the Education Sciences, served as commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics while George W. Bush was president.
- Kent Talbert is senior policy adviser and was general counsel and acting undersecretary during the George W. Bush administration.
Here, from The Washington Post, is a list of top jobs at the department and the status of Trump appointments:
|Department of Education 15 positions|
|Confirmed||Deputy secretary||Mitchell Zais|
|Confirmed||General counsel||Carlos G. Muñiz|
|Confirmed||Chief financial officer||Douglas Webster|
|Confirmed||Assistant secretary for legislation and congressional affairs||Peter Louis Oppenheim|
|Confirmed||Assistant secretary for civil rights||Kenneth L. Marcus|
|No nominee||Assistant secretary for communications and outreach||—|
|Nominated||Assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education||Frank T. Brogan|
|Nominated||Assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development||James Blew|
|No nominee||Assistant secretary for postsecondary education||—|
|Confirmed||Assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services||Johnny Collett|
|Failed||Assistant secretary for career, technical and adult education||Timothy Kelly|
|Nominated||Assistant secretary for career, technical and adult education||Scott Stump|
|Nominated||Commissioner, Rehabilitation Services Administration||Mark Schultz|
|Confirmed||Director of the Institute of Education Sciences||Mark Schneider|