At least three staffers who are part of the initial Trump administration team at the U.S. Department of Education appear to have, at one point or another, worked for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. That’s the education reform organization started by former Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican from Florida and President Donald Trump’s one-time GOP primary rival.
- Josh Venable, who has played a key role in the transition, spent almost two years as the national director of advocacy and legislation at the foundation;
- Andrew Kossack, who did a seven-month stint at the foundation as a deputy policy director;
- Neil Ruddock, who appears to have served as the foundation’s regional advocacy director for the past four years.
Bush’s foundation advocates for school choice, requiring students to demonstrate literacy at the end of 3rd grade, and digital education, among other issues.
We’ve previously reported that Venable and Kossack were part of the initial “beach head” team at the department. (That’s Beltway-speak for the first political appointees to arrive at an agency.) Ruddock’s name was on a list of Trump political appointees reported by ProPublica. Other names reported by Pro Publica include Laura Rigas, who appears to have worked at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education, according to LinkedIn.
The connection between Trump’s education team and Bush’s organization isn’t a shocker. A lot of powerhouse GOP players in education policy are linked to the foundation—indeed, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos sat on the board of the foundation, until she was tapped to helm the department.
However, DeVos has yet to name folks to top policy and management positions. Some potential appointees have described the hiring process as chaotic, or expressed reservations about working for the Trump administration. More on all that here.