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Trump Team May Combine Innovation, K-12 Offices, Advocates Say

By Alyson Klein — January 23, 2018 1 min read
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The Trump administration is seriously considering incorporating the office of innovation and improvement into the U.S. Department of Education’s broader office of elementary and secondary education, advocates say.

This isn’t a sure thing yet. But it seems like a strong possibility for a number of reasons. First off, the White House has made it clear that it wants to reorganize federal agencies to get rid of unnecessary or duplicative offices.

President Donald Trump hasn’t yet tapped anyone for the post of assistant secretary of innovation and improvement yet. But he did nominate Frank Brogan, a former Florida state chief and lieutenant governor, as assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education. It’s easy to imagine someone with Brogan’s background being put in charge of both K-12 policy and innovation.

And, given U.S. Secretary of Education DeVos’ focus lately on “rethinking education,” it’s also easy to imagine her making the case that innovation shouldn’t be sectioned off into a single office—it should be infused throughout the department.

Unlike other offices within the Education Department, the office of innovation and improvement isn’t enshrined in legislation. It was created back in 2002 by then-U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige to help promote the Bush administration school choice agenda. Nina Rees, who is now the executive director of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, was the first head of the office. There was speculation that its influence would decline when Rees left the department in early 2006.

But when the Obama administration came into office in early 2009, the office was tasked with implementation of some marquee programs. Those included the Investing in Innovation grants, which helped nurture promising ideas at the district level, and the Race to the Top District grants, which focused on personalized learning. Obama’s first leader for the office, Jim Shelton, a former Gates Foundation official, later went on to serve as deputy secretary. (He’s now heading up K-12 work at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.)

Right now, the office is in charge of programs dealing with parent involvement, charter schools, private schools, teacher quality, and the Education Innovation and Research program. (That’s the successor to i3). More here.

Photo: Swikar Patel for Education Week.

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