Senate Aide Nominated for Department’s Civil Rights Post

By Erik W. Robelen — July 12, 2005 3 min read
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Amid a flurry of activity to fill out the Department of Education’s leadership roster, President Bush has nominated a veteran Senate aide to take up the long-vacant post of assistant secretary for civil rights.

Stephanie Johnson Monroe, 47, was the chief counsel for the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee from 2001 until earlier this year, and previously held other committee jobs. Ms. Monroe has long worked with Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. When he gave up the gavel of the education panel earlier this year to take over the Senate Budget Committee, Ms. Monroe followed him there.

The move came as the Senate on June 30 confirmed Thomas W. Luce III, a major Republican donor and the founder of the Austin, Texas-based group, Just for the Kids, as assistant secretary for the Education Department’s office of planning, evaluation, and policy development.

The department’s top civil rights post has been vacant since 2003, when Gerald A. Reynolds stepped down. Mr. Reynolds, nominated early in President Bush’s first term, was never confirmed by the Senate. His views on affirmative action sparked controversy among leading Democrats. Eventually, Mr. Bush circumvented the Senate in March 2002, using a procedure in the U.S. Constitution that allows the president to name so-called “recess” appointments of limited duration.

The civil rights office is responsible for enforcing laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, gender, age, or disability in schools and other educational institutions receiving federal funds.

“We look forward to moving StephanieMonroe’s nomination through the [education] committee,” Craig Orfield, a spokesman for Republicans on the Senate panel, said in an e-mail.

The office of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the panel’s ranking Democrat, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

William L. Taylor, the chairman of the Citizens Commission on Civil Rights, a watchdog group in Washington, and an outspoken critic of President Bush’s 2001 decision to nominate Mr. Reynolds, said he was unfamiliar with Ms. Monroe, but suggested the civil rights office has been without a top official for too long.

‘For Better or Worse’

“There has been no leadership over there,” Mr. Taylor said. “People in the civil rights community have mixed feelings about that, because they might be doing some bad things. . . . For better or worse, it will be interesting to have someone there with real authority.”

The June 23 announcement by President Bush came a week after he nominated Wan J. Kim to become the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Department of Justice. Mr. Kim is currently a deputy assistant attorney general in the agency’s civil rights division. The Justice Department position includes responsibility for the educational opportunities section, which still oversees scores of long-running school desegregation cases, as well as other education matters.

Meanwhile, the Senate’s June 30 confirmation of Mr. Luce fills a new role at the Education Department. The assistant secretary position for planning, evaluation, and policy development was created earlier this year as part of a reorganization by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. Among the job’s responsibilities will be oversight of the department’s annual budget proposal.

Mr. Luce, 64, has long been involved in education issues in Texas, and more recently, across the country. He is a co-author of a book published this year called Do What Works: How Proven Practices Can Improve America’s Schools. A lawyer, Mr. Luce has long-standing ties to President Bush and has regularly contributed money to Republican candidates over the years. (“Texas ‘Agitator’ in Line for Ed. Dept. Post,” May 25, 2005)

Finally, President Bush on June 30 nominated Terrell Halaska, 38, to become the Education Department’s assistant secretary for congressional affairs. Ms. Halaska currently serves as a White House domestic-policy aide, and before that was the deputy chief of staff in the Department of Health and Human Services.


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