Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Federal

Head of Jewish Group Tapped for Top Civil Rights Post Under DeVos

By Andrew Ujifusa — October 26, 2017 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

UPDATED

The Trump administration has picked the leader of a group that advocates for the civil rights of the Jewish community to hold the top civil rights post under U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

Kenneth L. Marcus, the founder and president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, was announced Thursday as President Donald Trump’s nominee to be assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education. Previously, he served as the staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Marcus also was delegated the authority of the assistant secretary for civil rights at the Education Department under President George W. Bush.

Last year, our coworker Mark Walsh spoke to Marcus about the role of the office for civil rights in the incoming Trump administration. He counseled keeping an “open mind” as far as Trump enforcing education civil rights laws, noting that GOP administrations in the past enforced those laws appropriately.

“In my experience, the overwhelming majority of cases [the office for civil rights] handles will be addressed largely the same, regardless of whether it is a liberal or a conservative administration,” Marcus said at the time. “The differences will come in the relatively high-profile cases. But then, those are the cases that matter.”

On its web site, the Brandeis Center states that its mission is “to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all.” In addition, the group says, “In the Twenty-first Century, the leading civil and human rights challenge facing North American Jewry is the resurgent problem of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism on university campuses. This social problem requires an immediate, effective, and coordinated legal response.”

Marcus has criticized political movements that push governments to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel, and in particular those on college campuses. He has said that anti-Israel sentiments in higher education have intimidated those with pro-Israel views. He has also authored The Definition of Anti-Semitism.

DeVos’ approach to civil rights is one of the most closely watched aspects of her leadership of the department. DeVos and her supporters say that the federal government is taking a fairer approach to civil rights issues that gives states and local school districts more power than under the Obama administration. Critics, however, charge that her approach to issues such as systemic racial discrimination and transgender rights threatens to do great harm to disadvantaged groups of students.

The acting assistant secretary for civl rights, Candice Jackson, has drawn flak for her comments about sexual assault on college campuses and racial issues. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the Senate education committee and one of Jackson’s biggest critics, praised DeVos Thursday for not trying to get Jackson confirmed for the assistant secretary’s job by the Senate.

The top civil rights job at the department deals with a host of sweeping and politically difficult issues. Check out an extensive interview our colleague Evie Blad conducted with Catherine Lhamon, the assistant secretary for civil rights at the department from 2013 to 2017.

Back in 2004, we wrote about Marcus due to controversy about the fact that he was “delegated the authority” of the assistant secretary for civil rights without being confirmed by the Senate. Critics accused President George W. Bush’s administration of doing an end-run around the Senate.

To watch video of Marcus speaking in 2014 about anti-semitism on college campuses, see the video below—Marcus begins speaking after about 90 seconds:

Photo: Kenneth L. Marcus delivers welcoming remarks at the Louis D. Brandeis Center’s National Law Student Leadership Conference last March. (Teresa Kroeger/Louis D. Brandeis Center-File)

Follow us on Twitter at @PoliticsK12.

Related Tags:

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Feds Add Florida to List of States Under Investigation Over Restrictions on Mask Mandates
The Education Department told the state Sept. 10 it will probe whether its mask rule is violating the rights of students with disabilities.
3 min read
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal How Biden Will Mandate Teacher Vaccines, Testing in Some States That Don't Require Them
President Joe Biden's COVID-19 plan will create new teacher vaccination and testing requirements in some states through worker safety rules.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela administers a COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site for at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa.
Matt Rourke/AP
Federal Biden Pushes Schools to Expand COVID-19 Testing, Get More Teachers Vaccinated
President Joe Biden set teacher vaccine requirements for federally operated schools as part of a new effort to drive down COVID's spread.
7 min read
President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington. Biden is announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.
President Joe Biden in a speech from the White House announces sweeping new federal vaccine requirements and other efforts in an renewed effort to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Harnik/AP
Federal Education Department Opens Civil Rights Probes in 5 States That Ban School Mask Mandates
The move on behalf of students with disabilities deepens the fight over masks between the Biden administration and GOP governors.
4 min read
Kindergarten students sit in their classroom on the first day of in-person learning at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in Los Angeles on April 13, 2021.
Kindergarten students sit in their classroom on the first day of in-person learning at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in Los Angeles in April 2021.
Jae C. Hong/AP