The Trump administration is yanking the nomination of Tim Kelly, a Michigan state representative who President Donald Trump tapped to lead the office of career, technical, and adult education at the U.S. Department of Education, after it surfaced that he was the author of a personal blog that made offensive statements about Muslims, Head Start parents, and federal efforts to recruit women into the sciences, a source said.
“It became clear that Mr. Kelly had made a series of statements that were not reflective of the secretary’s values,” said an administration official. Sources characterized this as a decision that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos made when she was presented with the information. The blog should have been caught in the White House vetting process, one source said. And Kelly should have disclosed it with his application, but failed to do so, this source added.
Kelly did not respond to an email from Education Week, and his state legislative office declined to make him available. But Kelly told the Detroit News that his blog reflected mainstream conservative thought.
“This has been a terribly distressing thing over the last eight months for me and my family,” Kelly told the newspaper. “Increasingly, I became aware that I perhaps was not a good match for some of this given the toxicity of the swamp.”
Kelly, who had been scheduled for a Nov. 15 confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, would have been tasked with implementing the $1.1 billion Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education program, the largest source of federal funding for high schools, as well as initiatives dealing with adult literacy and community college.
“Democrats were aware of these offensive blog posts and Senator Murray certainly intended to bring this up if this nomination had proceeded. She is pleased he chose to withdraw his nomination because those types of comments cannot be tolerated in our government or elsewhere,” said Mairead Lynn, a spokeswoman for Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the committee.
The comments from his “Citizen Leader” blog date from 2009 to 2012, when Kelly was serving as a board commissioner in Saginaw County. In 2009 Kelly, a Republican, appeared to suggest that all Muslims should be placed on the no-fly list, and given the chance to clear their names individually. His comments came in the wake of a Nigerian man boarding a plane bound for Detroit with plastic explosives hidden in his underwear. (The man was caught by authorities.)
Here’s a snippet from the blog:
"Forget for a moment, that this young man from Nigeria purchased his one-way ticket with cash, had no luggage, or that his father had warned the authorities of his radicalism. He should have been on anybody's no-fly list because his name is UMAR FAROUK ABDULMUTALLAB! Zenaphobic [sic]? No, I'm being pragmatic ... Instead of assuming that all people are interested in, let alone capable of, blowing up Western, Christian, or Jewish things, let's assume all Muslims are."
A blog posting is skeptical of federally-funded programs aimed at recruiting women for STEM fields, such as Advance, which received a grant from the National Science Foundation.
"Research shows that bias against women in the sciences is extremely weak. Studies point to data that indicate men and women simply have different tastes when it comes to areas of study. For instance, women may be underrepresented in the fields of engineering, but thrive in the areas of sociology and biology. ... For my money, this kind of ridiculousness in academia should not be rewarded and certainly not paid for by the American taxpayer."
Those views would appear to be at odds with others in the administration. Ivanka Trump, the president’s adviser and eldest daughter, wants the Education Department to steer as much competitive grant money as possible to STEM education, including for under-represented groups, such as women.
Another post, from 2010, questions the role of the federal government in career and technical education and K-12 education more generally.
"Job placement, and training, until the '60's, was handled mostly by the private sector. Now it's become an administrative nightmare of federal regulations, delivered mostly by the states, with horrible results. Same with K-12 education."
And a 2011 post takes aim at Head Start, a federally funded early-childhood education program for low-income families administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. In particular, the blog expresses skepticism about the program’s emphasis on parent involvement, given that Head Start parents are “often themselves academically and socially needy.”
"As I said, there have been a number of independent studies over the years that have concluded that these program children come to school with no more social or cognitive abilities than their non-program counterparts. So why then do we continue to pay for this failure? ... In other words, we pay the very same people, the parents of these children, who are often themselves academically and socially needy, to teach their own not to emulate the destructive and debilitating behavior and practices they witness everyday in their own homes and neighborhoods. Yeah, that's gonna work."