Robert H. Pasternack announced his resignation last week as the assistant secretary of education for special education and rehabilitative services, a post he has held since 2001. He will leave the Department of Education as of Jan. 2.
“There’s never a good time to leave,” he said in an interview. “It’s just time for me to leave.”
In a letter to President Bush, Mr. Pasternack, 53, said he believes he “can continue to serve children with disabilities and their families in the private sector while at the same time trying my best to achieve the educational goals that you have set for our country.”
Mr. Pasternack, a former state director of special education in New Mexico, came to Washington with the Bush administration and helped shape its goals for revision of the nation’s main special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The IDEA has been making its way through an already-overdue reauthorization process involving numerous changes. The House passed its version April 30. The Senate is expected to complete its bill early next year. Mr. Pasternack will leave before a reauthorized IDEA faces the complicated process of implementation.
“There’s a delay in the Senate, which is a good time to pause and think about everything,” he said.
Jim Bradshaw, an Education Department spokesman, said the departure wouldn’t hurt the reauthorization process.
“People in the department are committed to continuing to advance the goals of the president and the secretary,” Mr. Bradshaw said. “We do not know who will take his place. Not at this point.”
Mr. Pasternack said he does not yet know where he will go.
“It is too bad he is leaving because he is a school-friendly person,” said Bruce Hunter, a lobbyist for the American Association of School Administrators, based in Arlington, Va. “He knows what it looks like at the other end of the pipe. I wish he was staying through the regulatory process, because it’s important to have somebody who understands the impact of the law.”
Press Aide Resigns
Meanwhile, Dan Langan, the press secretary and chief spokesman for Secretary of Education Rod Paige since October 2001, also is joining the private sector.
Mr. Langan left the department as of Nov. 21 to take a job in communications and community relations for AT&T Corp. in Pennsylvania.
The 34- year-old Pittsburgh native, who was formerly a press secretary in the Pennsylvania education department, will be based in Harrisburg, Pa. He said he has enjoyed his role in the department.
“Not many people are blessed with that opportunity,” he said.
Susan Aspey, who has been deputy press secretary for the past year, will take his place as acting press secretary.