Home > Uncategorized > If You Thought DeVos Was Bad, Read These Descriptions of her Nominee for Deputy… the #2 Slot in USDOE

If You Thought DeVos Was Bad, Read These Descriptions of her Nominee for Deputy… the #2 Slot in USDOE

I skimmed over reports about Mark Zais, Betsy DeVos’ appointee for the #2 position at USDOE a couple of days ago, but was brought up short this morning when I read Diane Ravitch’s post offering a two profiles of his background, which I offer in full, below. First, the Politico profile, which is “just-the-facts” reportage:

“TRUMP TAPS NEW NO. 2 FOR THE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT: The president on Tuesday night announced he’s nominating Mick Zais to be deputy secretary at the Education Department. Zais checks off a lot of conservative boxes – as superintendent of schools in South Carolina, he refused to participate in the Obama administration’s signature Race to the Top program, which encouraged states to adopt more rigorous academic standards like the Common Core in exchange for federal grants. Zais saw the standards, which were never mandated by the Obama administration, as federal overreach. He pulled South Carolina out of the Smarter Balanced tests, which are aligned to the Common Core. And he has supported the expansion of school choice programs in the state. Prior to serving as South Carolina’s superintendent, Zais was president of Newberry College for 10 years.”

As noted above, I skimmed this and was unsurprised and relatively unconcerned. Several conservative State Department leaders eschewed Race To The Top funds and as Superintendent in New Hampshire at the time RTTT was launched I vigorously opposed it as “overreach”. His advocacy for school choices was problematic but unsurprising given the direction Ms. DeVos is leading the department and the “reform” Mr. Trump is pursuing, Another profile of Mr. Zais indicated he was a retired military leader, which was moderately disturbing, but increasingly State leaders are being drawn from “unconventional” backgrounds— as is the case now in New Hampshire. In sum, I thought “it could have been worse”… until I read the second profile in Diane Ravitch’s post, which was drafted by he grassroots group EdFirstSC:

“Since taking office, Zais sent $144 million of our tax dollars to 49 other states (e.g. by virtue of ignoring RTTT completely), causing thousands of SC teachers to be fired and directly causing class sizes to skyrocket as we made the biggest cuts to education in the US…24.1%. SC test scores on NAEP plummeted over this period of draconian cuts that Zais would now make permanent.

“Since budgets have recovered, Zais has not requested that this funding be restored, even when the state had a billion-dollar surplus. To continue running SC schools on the cheap, he tried desperately to gut regulations limiting class-sizes.

“Zais has poisoned relationships with teachers, attempting to give them letter-grades based on test scores of students they’ve never even met. At a recent State Board meeting, he suggested making teachers at-will employees, to be fired without notice and without showing any cause or due process.

Zais also took 29 personal days during his first ten months in office. He used those days to go golfing, attend stamp conventions, attend football games, and clean his shed.

Zais allowed Jay Ragley to lie to the media, claiming that records related to those personal days would cost $500,000 in man-hours to process and provide under a Freedom of Information Act request. It ended up taking a staffer about two hours.

“His department has also conspired to censor and suppress public comment at a series of public meetings on teacher evaluation. At one meeting, staff members were caught taking audience questions into the hallway and stuffing them into a briefcase.

“At another, two senior staff members stood onstage giggling as they sorted questions into those that would and would not be answered. In a two-hour meeting, less than ten minutes were allotted for questions, and none were asked that raised concerns about their plan. That plan was ultimately rejected by the State Board because of serious concerns about its fairness.

Even those who agree with his goals and radical Libertarian ideology would have to concede that Zais has been singularly ineffective in accomplishing anything of note.

“He runs the same play over and over: develop a plan with no input from stakeholders, keep the public in the dark, fail disastrously when it all comes to light…and then withdraw the plan to duck a vote.”

Hm-m-m-m. A leader who takes lot of personal days, who ducks responsibility for failure, supports draconian budget cuts, promotes profiteering in public education, and believes in discredited ideas like VAM. Why is it unsurprising the POTUS would nominate such a man to oversee the day-to-day operations of the USDOE?

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