There are approximately 550 key presidential appointed positions in Trump’s new administration that must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. To date, less than ten percent have been appointed and confirmed by the Senate. In total, approximately 4,000 positions can be filled by presidential appointment. Transition in any new administration is a difficult process and this holds true for the Trump Administration. CEC believes consideration of the qualifications of the appointee should center on their expertise and understanding of the system in order to effect systems change.
CEC is most interested in the appointment of two positions in the U.S. Department of Education – the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and the Director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). Ruth Ryder, a seasoned career level staffer, has been “delegated the authority” by President Trump to serve as the Assistant Secretary of OSERS until an appointee is confirmed. She is also ably carrying out the duties of the OSEP Director.
These two positions provide the leadership in OSERS and are critical in advancing the OSERS mission – “To provide leadership to achieve full integration and participation in society of people with disabilities by ensuring equal opportunity and access to, and excellence in, education, employment and community living.”
In an Education Week article on March 7, 2017 – When Will We Have a New Federal Special Education Chief? (And Why It Matters) Deborah A. Ziegler, CEC’s Director of Policy and Advocacy stated, “When the secretary calls his or her cabinet together in any administration, you want to have someone sitting at the table with expertise in special education.”
Seven Democratic Senators who serve on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee expressed concern in a March 7 letter to Lamar Alexander, Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, about the appointment of individuals who will serve in top positions in the U.S. Department of Education. The Senators requested “that the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (“HELP”) hold hearings prior to any committee votes on President Trump’s nominees to fill critical positions requiring Senate confirmation at the Department of Education (“the Department).” The critical positions referred to in the letter include assistant secretaries.
During previous administrations CEC, along with other education and disability organizations, submitted key questions for the Senate to consider for confirmation hearings. CEC stands ready to submit questions to the Senate again, as well as requesting U.S. Secretary of Education DeVos consider a well-qualified individual with expertise in special education and rehabilitative services for the position of OSERS assistant secretary.