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Meet the 9 New Staffers Tapped to Fill Key Roles in Secretary Betsy DeVos’s Department of Education

By Kate Stringer | April 13, 2017

Photo: Getty Images
The U.S. Department of Education announced nine new hires Wednesday evening, including chief of staff to Secretary Betsy DeVos. None of the staffers, many of whom worked in the department during the George W. Bush administration, require Senate confirmation.
Fourteen senior positions that do require hearings are still open. Carlos Muñiz has been nominated to fill one of them, general counsel. Three of the new hires will also serve in an acting capacity for some of these top posts, though they have not been formally nominated.
The pace of hiring has been slow — far behind the Obama administration’s — which former officials say hinders the work of a secretary who intends to rely on staffers for the education policy expertise she lacks.
Josh Venable, chief of staff — Venable used to work for Jeb Bush’s education nonprofit, Foundation for Excellence in Education, and served in leadership roles in the Michigan Republican Party from 2006 to 2011. Venable was among those who prepared DeVos for her Senate confirmation hearing.
Dougie Simmons, deputy chief of staff for operations — Simmons served in the office of Sen. Ted Cruz and worked for the Republican National Committee.
Ebony Lee, deputy chief of staff for policy — Lee comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she worked for nine years. Previously, she worked for the U.S. Department of Education during the Bush administration for two years.
Robert Eitel, senior counselor to the secretary — Eitel spent several years in senior roles at for-profit higher education companies such as Bridgepoint Education. He also worked in the Department of Education during the Bush administration.
James Manning, senior adviser to the undersecretary and acting undersecretary — Manning served in the U.S. Department of Education under the Bush and Obama administrations, working on civil rights and higher education, including student loans. He also served as President Ronald Reagan’s special assistant.
Jana Toner, White House liaison — Toner worked in the U.S. Department of Education during the Bush administration as communications director, White House liaison, and chief of staff for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education.
Candice Jackson, deputy assistant secretary in the Office for Civil Rights and acting assistant secretary — Jackson has worked on civil rights and antidiscrimination legislation as an attorney in Washington state and California. She wrote a book about the women who accused former President Bill Clinton of making sexual advances.
Jose Viana, assistant deputy secretary and director for the Office of English Language Acquisition — Viana works for the North Carolina Department of Education as a Title I program administrator and runs the state’s Migrant Education Program.
Jason Botel, deputy assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education and acting assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education — Botel served as executive director of MarylandCAN, an education reform group. He is generally viewed as a progressive, supporting Black Lives Matter and the Common Core. The 74’s Mark Keierleber did a deep dive into Botel’s background: Five Surprising Facts About Jason Botel, Trump’s Pick for Senior White House Adviser on Education.


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