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Trump's Special Education Secretary Johnny Collett Announces Resignation

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Update: On Oct. 16, 2019, the U.S. Department of Education announced Johnny Collett will resign his position as assistant secretary of education for special education and rehabilitation services, according to Education Week. Mark Schultz, the current commissioner of the rehabilitation services administration, will assume Collett’s duties until he or another candidate is officially confirmed for the role by the Senate. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Collett was returning home to Kentucky to spend more time with his family. She thanked him for his work on Twitter: 

[Johnny Collett’s] work to rethink [special education and rehabilitation services] and focus all of its work around achieving better results for individuals with disabilities will leave a lasting mark. I’m grateful for the time he spent in Washington, DC and I wish him all the best as he returns home to Kentucky.

On Wednesday, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Johnny Collett for the position of assistant secretary of education for special education and rehabilitation services.

As assistant secretary, Collett will oversee the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and other laws regarding special education. IDEA makes free public education available to children with disabilities across the nation and ensures that children with disabilities receive the support services they need.

In an interview with Oneder in April, Collett said a lot can be done to help children with disabilities find success, even under IDEA.

While it is true that much progress has been made over the last 40 years since the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), it is also true that there is still much work to do to ensure that all children, including students with disabilities, are prepared for success. For example, states have learned that a focus on compliance under IDEA, while necessary, is not sufficient by itself to improve achievement and outcomes for [students with disabilities].

Families of children with disabilities have been concerned about Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s lack of knowledge about IDEA after she told reporters that adherence to special education standards should be handled by the states when IDEA is a federal program.

Collett currently serves as director of special education outcomes for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). He was previously director of the Division of Learning Services and state director of special education for the Kentucky Department of Education. Before becoming involved with the Kentucky Department of Education, Collett was a special education teacher.

“Congratulations to Johnny Collett,” Chris Minnich, executive director of the CCSSO, said in a statement. “Johnny recognizes we must set high expectations and provide the necessary supports for each and every child to create a more equitable education system. He has experience at the national, state and local level that will be a strong asset to the U.S. Department of Education.”

The National Center for Learning Disabilities sent out a statement in support of Collett and urged the Senate to confirm the position.

Collett must be confirmed by the Senate before he takes the position.

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Header image via Johnny Collett’s Twitter

Originally published: November 16, 2017
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