Now that the edu-fun is over—$100 billion in stimulus funding has been handed out and No Child Left Behind waivers have been awarded to most states—Education Department press secretary Justin Hamilton is handing in his government credentials.
The last day for Hamilton, who served as the official megaphone of the department, is today. That leaves deputy press secretary Daren Briscoe in charge—at least temporarily—and likely creates an opening for a new deputy press secretary as turnover in the department’s communications shop continues. (Personnel changes continue in other departments as well, including the Office for Civil Rights, where Russlynn Ali is also leaving today.)
In Hamilton’s farewell note to colleagues, he wrote: “After 12 years, stints in both the House and Senate, Presidential and Congressional races in 9 states, a Presidential Transition and an Administration, I’m leaving Government for life on the outside. Serving President Obama and Secretary Duncan has been one of the greatest honors of my life. Through our efforts at the Department of Education, we’ve reinvented the way government works and helped nurture unprecedented levels of reform that will improve the lives of children across the country for years to come.”
He didn’t say where he’s going, except that he will be working on “media, message and strategy.”
During his tenure, Hamilton engaged in a Twitter edu-spat with Diane Ravitch, went toe-to-toe with the now-incredibly-popular New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over an error that cost the state a Race to the Top award, and went ‘round and ‘round with EdWeek blogger Anthony Cody about whether Duncan and Obama see eye-to-eye on testing policies.
And clearly, it seems that Hamilton’s last official act as press secretary was to get folks thinking about Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a different light: As a a possible Secretary of State, and as a male stripper.
Hamilton, who packed up everything he owned in his Ford Probe in 2000, drove to Washington from Texas, and eventually landed a job in the Senate mailroom, was always armed with a pithy comeback.
“We don’t watch debates. We’re working,” he told the Washington Post after Texas Gov. Rick Perry, as a presidential candidate, talked about getting rid of the education department during a debate.
“At some point, you have to say: Time’s up, pencils down,” he said to Gov. Christie in their toe-to-toe exchange over the clerical error that cost New Jersey millions in Race to the Top money.
And when the National Journal inquired about the effects of sequestration, his only response? Providing the pub with a link to Carly Simon’s song “Anticipation.”