Rees Leaves Innovation Office for Job in the Private Sector

By Michelle R. Davis — January 17, 2006 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The head of the Department of Education’s office of innovation and improvement left last week for a job in the private sector.

Nina Shokraii Rees, a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and a former education analyst at the Heritage Foundation, said she would go to work for Knowledge Universe Inc., a Santa Monica, Calif.-based education investment company, as its vice president of strategic initiatives, starting Jan. 30.

Ms. Rees will be working in the Washington office of the company, which was formed in 1996 by the former junk-bond financier Michael R. Milken and others.

Ms. Rees was the first person to direct the office of innovation and improvement, which was created in September 2002 by then-Secretary of Education Rod Paige. It was formed to promote President Bush’s agenda for school choice, including private school vouchers.

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings praised Ms. Rees’ service, saying in a Jan. 12 statement that she had moved “the ball forward toward the goal of a quality education for all Americans.”

As the assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement, Ms. Rees “was a catalyst for grassroots change and accountability-based reform,” Ms. Spellings said in the statement.

Ms. Rees was involved in the expansion of charter schools, through grants and outreach across the country, and was an advocate for the first federal voucher program, established by Congress for the District of Columbia in 2003. Her office was also instrumental in channeling $20 million in federal charter school money to Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The office of innovation and improvement also oversees the implementation of the supplemental-services portion of the No Child Left Behind Act. The law calls for students at some schools that do not meet annual educational goals to receive after-school tutoring services.

A New Viewpoint

Ms. Rees said in an interview last week that she was looking forward to getting a new perspective on supplemental services. Knowledge Universe owns or has investments in a long list of education companies, including K-12 Inc., KinderCare Learning Centers, and EdSolutions Inc., a supplemental-services provider.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how the business side of [supplemental education services] works, and the challenges they face,” Ms. Rees said. “In my capacity, I only hear what they want me to hear. I’ve always been interested in the entrepreneurial end of the puzzle.”

She said she would also work on early-childhood-education issues for Knowledge Universe to ensure that state efforts to develop universal prekindergarten programs include private providers.

“This [new job] dovetails well with everything I’ve done so far to expand choice in K-12,” she said.

Under federal law, Ms Rees cannot lobby the Education Department for a one-year period.

Andrew J. Rotherham, a co-director of Education Sector, a Washington-based national education think tank, and a former White House aide in the Clinton administration, said that Ms. Rees’ departure suggests Ms. Spellings may be showing the door to those chosen by Mr. Paige.

“It means that Spellings is putting her imprint on the department,” he wrote in an e-mail Jan. 12.


English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
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.
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

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 Top Federal Adviser on Puerto Rico's Schools Declares: 'We Have to Build Trust'
Chris Soto heads an Education Department team providing technical assistance and support for the U.S. territory's public schools.
4 min read
Martin G. Brumbaugh School kindergarten teacher Nydsy Santiago teaches her students under a gazebo at a municipal athletic park in Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 4, 2021.
Martin G. Brumbaugh School kindergarten teacher Nydsy Santiago teaches her students under a gazebo at a municipal athletic park in Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 4, 2021.
Carlos Giusti/AP
Federal Schools Could Count Nonbinary Students Under Biden Proposal
The Civil Rights Data Collection for this school year could also revive questions about inexperienced teachers and preschool discipline.
6 min read
Image of a form with male and female checkboxes.
Federal 'Parents' Bill of Rights' Underscores Furor Over Curriculum and Transparency in Schools
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley's bill highlights how education issues like critical race theory will likely stay in the national political spotlight.
7 min read
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., says "it's time to give control back to parents, not woke bureaucrats."
Patrick Semansky/AP
Federal Opinion It’s Not Just the NSBA That’s Out of Touch. There’s a Bigger Problem
Those who influence educational policy or practice would do well to care about what parents and the public actually want.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty