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ESSA Point Man Jason Botel to Leave Education Dept. Post, Sources Say

Acting Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education Jason Botel may not hold that title much longer, sources say. Botel, who was named to his post in April, may take on another role within the administration or leave altogether.

Botel, a former charter school principal and state advocate, has been the administration's point person on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, in the office that oversees key federal K-12 programs.

In that role he's gotten criticism, including from Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate education committee and an ESSA architect. Alexander and others have said Botel has gone beyond the boundaries of the law, particularly in his feedback to Delaware which questioned the ambitiousness of the state's goals. Alexander told Education Week that it appeared Botel hadn't read the law carefully.

And some state chiefs were miffed at the Trump administration's responses to their ESSA plans, in part because Trump officials questioned whether states could use Advanced Placement tests to gauge college readiness. Those responses were particularly surprising given that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos had signaled a strong preference for local-control over education, and told chiefs in a closed-door meeting earlier this year that they could turn in their plans even if they weren't fully complete.

The education department did not respond to a request for comment.

The personnel move comes as the Trump administration is the midst of helping states implement ESSA, the biggest K-12 task on its plate. So far, 16 states and the District of Columbia have turned in plans, and nearly all of them have received initial responses. The Trump administration recently revamped its process for providing feedback.  

It's not clear who will take over for Botel in heading up the office that oversees K-12 policy. The White House has been slow to fill positions at the Education Department and other agencies. So far, just one person—Peter Oppenheim, the assistant secretary for congressional affairs—has made it through the Senate confirmation process. And only one other person, Carlos Muñiz as general counsel, has been officially nominated.


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