Jim Blew, the director of Student Success California, an education advocacy group, has gotten the official White House nod to lead the office of planning, evaluation, and policy analysis at the U.S. Department of Education. We wrote that his nomination was likely back in June.
Blew’s background could be a boon to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ push to expand school choice. He was the national president of StudentsFirst, an education redesign organization started by former District of Columbia schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. He took that job in late 2014, when Rhee stepped down from the organization, serving until mid-2016, when StudentsFirst merged with 50CAN, a network of state advocacy organizations. Student Success California is an affiliate of 50CAN.
Before that, Blew spent nearly a decade as the Walton Family Foundation’s director of K-12 reform, advising the foundation on how to broaden schooling options for low-income communities. And he worked in communications before devoting himself to K-12 policy. More in his bio. (Note: Walton provides support for Education Week coverage of parent-engagement and decisionmaking.)
And Blew has worked with DeVos for years to champion school choice. The Walton Family Foundation donated to the Alliance for School Choice, which is affiliated with the American Federation for Children, the school choice advocacy organization that DeVos used to chair. AFC and the Alliance for School Choice put out a warm statement of congratulations when Blew was tapped to lead StudentsFirst back in 2014.
In past administrations, the assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy analysis has been a pivotal player. For example, Carmel Martin, who served in the post under former Secretary Arne Duncan, helped oversee signature programs such as Race to the Top, expanded School Improvement Grants, and the Obama administration’s waivers from many of the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Blew is only the fourth person to officially be nominated for a post at the Education Department. So far, Congress has confirmed just two appointees—DeVos and Peter Oppenheim, the department’s liaison with Congress. Carlos Muñiz, who served as deputy counsel to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, had his confirmation hearing recently and is awaiting Senate approval.