José Viana, Head of Federal ELL Office to Resign

By Corey Mitchell — November 14, 2019 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

José Viana, the director of the U.S. Department of Education’s office of English-language acquisition, has announced his plans to resign by the end of November.

Viana, who has led the office since April 2017, let Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos know Tuesday about his plans to leave the post by the end of November. In the role, he oversees a $60 million budget and the education of the nation’s nearly 5 million English-language learners.

“I will forever be grateful for the opportunity and privilege I have been given to serve my country and its learners,” Viana wrote in an email to supporters this week. “Be assured that in me you will always have an advocate and partner as you champion for the students, parents and teachers of our great nation.”

Before coming to Washington, Viana spent eight years as an administrator at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, working to help the children of migrant workers overcome academic challenges. He began his career as an English-language-learner teacher in the Miami-Dade County, Fla., public schools. Viana also spent time as a teacher and administrator in Durham, N.C., public schools.

Immigrants rights and English-learner advocacy groups praised Viana, a former English-learner and the son of Cuban immigrants, as an ally. He recently visited Puerto Rico, praising the work of educators there.

Viana said he cannot yet release details on his next step.

“I can say that my educational journey will continue to involve advocating for English-learners—emergent bilingual students,” he wrote in an email to Education Week.

Viana’s wife Aimee Viana is the principal deputy assistant secretary in the office of elementary and secondary education. She previously served as director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

Education Week profiled the Vianas in 2018, exploring the husband-and-wife team’s rise to influential roles in the Trump administration and their ties to one of Washington’s most prominent power couples.

José Viana’s sister, Mercedes Schlapp, is the former director of strategic communications at the White House, where she served as a senior member of the President Donald Trump’s staff from September 2017 until July. Since leaving the White House, she has taken on a role with Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.

Schlapp’s husband, Matt Schlapp, is an influential lobbyist and the chairman of the American Conservative Union, which organizes the annual Conservative Political Action Conference commonly known as CPAC.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.