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Top Special Education Official Leaving His Post at Education Department


The U.S. Department of Education's top official in charge of special education services is leaving his post, Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Wednesday.

Johnny Collett, assistant secretary for the office of special education and rehabilitative services, has served in the Trump administration for nearly two years. Mark Schultz, who has been commissioner of the rehabilitation services administration, will take on Collett's duties, an Education Department spokesperson said. The position requires Senate confirmation.

The office for special education and rehabilitation services oversees programs and policies that support people with disabilities, including transitions to adulthood.

Collett, who is respected in the special education community, previously served as special education director for Kentucky and as the director of special education outcomes for the Council of Chief State School Officers. He also served on the board of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education. 

The federal government needs to give "flexibility and support" to states as they implement their special education programs, Collett wrote after he was confirmed to his position.

"No two children are the same, so no two children's learning experiences should look the same," he wrote. "A personalized, student-centered education empowers students with disabilities and gives them the hope of living successful, independent lives, while a one-size-fits-all approach to education only limits students' potential. Each child's education should embrace his or her diverse traits and aspirations."

Schultz, a former deputy education commissioner from Nebraska, has more than 35 years of experience working at the national, state, and local levels to provide services for people with disabilities, the White House said when he was first nominated for his current role. He is a past president of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation and a member of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Information Technology Steering Committee.

Photo: Johnny Collett speaks during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in 2017.--Susan Walsh/AP-File

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