Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday announced the names of personnel who will serve in key leadership positions at the Education Department, a move that comes after she spent the first two months of her tenure operating with a skeletal beachhead team.
Serving as chief of staff is Josh Venable, who worked on former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign and for Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. DeVos served on the board of the foundation, which sought to export the Florida model of education restructuring to other parts of the country.
DeVos’s senior counselor is Robert Eitel, who has been working on the beachhead team while on leave from his job as general counsel for Bridgepoint Education, an operator of a for-profit college that was recently investigated by the department. The Education Department’s inspector general determined in February that Bridgepoint owes the department a $300,000 fine for miscalculating the refund of federal aid provided to students, according to a regulatory filing. The company can appeal the inspector general’s audit, but department officials have said Eitel will have no role in the matter because he has recused himself from all matters related to the company.
Company spokeswoman Marianne Perez said Eitel has had no input on company business and no work-related communications with employees during his time at the department.
James Manning, a longtime Education Department employee who helmed President Trump’s transition effort at the agency, is senior adviser to the undersecretary and — for now — acting undersecretary. Traditionally, the undersecretary leads the department’s work on higher-education issues. Manning was a special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and later served in George W. Bush’s education department as acting head of civil rights and postsecondary education. More recently, during the Obama administration, he was acting chief operating officer of Federal Student Aid, running the department’s sprawling student loan division.
Another veteran of the Bush-era Education Department, Ebony Lee, will serve as DeVos’s deputy chief of staff for policy. During the Obama administration, she worked on charter school policy at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
None of the newly announced hires will have to go through the Senate confirmation process — at least for now. Three, including Manning, are serving in acting roles and would have to go through the confirmation process if they are ultimately nominated for the permanent position.
Jason Botel, the deputy assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, and acting assistant secretary in the same office, was previously working as the White House senior adviser on education. He founded and led a KIPP charter school in Baltimore and then led statewide advocacy efforts as executive director of MarylandCAN.
Lawyer Candice Jackson is leading the Office for Civil Rights, at least temporarily, as the acting assistant secretary for civil rights. During Trump’s presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton, Jackson played a key role in shining a national spotlight on several women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct.
Civil rights advocates say they want Trump to nominate a permanent head of the civil rights office as soon as possible, because the person in that position needs to be scrutinized by the Senate. It’s not clear when or whether Trump intends to name a nominee for that job. A White House aide declined to comment.
The White House had previously announced Trump’s intent to nominate Carlos Muniz, a senior vice president at the consulting firm McGuireWoods and former chief of staff to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, as the department’s general counsel. Muniz helped Bondi defend her decision not to pursue legal action against Trump University, Trump’s real estate seminar business, according to the Associated Press. He also defended Florida State University in a lawsuit brought by a female student who said she was raped by the college’s football star, Jameis Winston. Florida State settled the high-profile case, which drew national attention to universities’ handling of campus sexual assault, for $950,000 without admitting liability.
Several other senior positions that are subject to Senate confirmation remain vacant, including deputy secretary, chief financial officer, and assistant secretaries for special education; legislation and congressional affairs; and policy, planning and evaluation. For a full list of Senate-confirmable positions at Education Department and across the federal government, go to The Washington Post’s presidential appointment tracker, produced in conjunction with the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service.