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Trump Taps Ex-Florida Chief, Lt. Governor for Top K-12 Post Under DeVos

By Alyson Klein — December 11, 2017 3 min read
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President Donald Trump has tapped Frank Brogan, who served as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s lieutenant governor, as assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education, the top post at the Education Department overseeing K-12 policy.

Brogan was elected Florida’s commissioner of education in 1994, a gig he held until 1999, when he became lieutenant governor. He then served as Bush’s second banana from 1999 to 2003. He has also held just about every possible job in K-12 education policy and instruction. He’s been a teacher, principal, and superintendent of schools in Florida’s Martin County.

The news isn’t exactly a shocker. We told you he was likely to be hired for the role way back in August. Brogan recently stepped down as the chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

Brogan championed higher academic standards while overseeing Florida’s schools, including a push to require students to take Algebra I or a comparable math course in order to graduate. The plan also called for students to earn a 2.0 grade-point average on a four-point scale to graduate from high school or to participate in sports or other extracurricular activities while they were in school.

Brogan also supported using tax dollars for private schools, a priority for U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Early in his tenure as Florida state chief, he proposed eliminating 350 jobs from the 1,500-person state education department—a pitch in line with DeVos’ own push to slim down regulations at the federal level.

Brogan was a founding member of the Education Leaders Council, a now-defunct organization for conservative state chiefs and other education leaders that supported a slimmer federal role, high academic standards, and charter schools.

As Florida’s lieutenant governor, Brogan played a behind-the-scenes role in working to end race-based university admissions, a plan Bush championed.

Brogan also has extensive higher education experience. He was the president of Florida Atlantic University, and served as the chancellor of Florida’s state higher education system from 2009 to 2013. His stint at the helm of Pennsylvania’s higher education system lasted almost four years. He announced plans to resign from the job earlier this year, around the time the state released a report written by consultants that detailed falling enrollment and fiscal problems in the state system. Brogan did not link the report’s findings to his choice to retire, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Brogan would replace Jason Botel, who has been filling the role in an acting capacity. Some of Botel’s early criticisms on state plans for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act got pushback from Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the Senate education chairman and a key DeVos ally.

If Brogan is confirmed, he would join a cadre of top-level department officials with a connection to Jeb Bush.

The list includes Josh Venable, the chief of staff, and Carlos Muñiz, who served as deputy general counsel under the former Florida governor and has been nominated as Education Department general counsel. More tangentially, Mick Zais, who has been nominated as deputy secretary of education, endorsed Bush’s 2016 presidential bid. And Jim Blew, who has been tapped as assistant secretary of planning, evaluation, and policy analysis, once served in a top K-12 post at the Walton Family Foundation, a big financial supporter of Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.

DeVos herself served on the board of Bush’s foundation before she was tapped as secretary of education. As secretary, she’s made more stops in Florida than any other state.

Frank Brogan, left, then Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Chancellor, chats with student Mary Butler during move-in day at Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Pa., in 2014.-- Markell DeLoatch/The Public Opinion via AP-File

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