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Nominee for No. 2 Education Job Skirts Controversy that Hounded DeVos


December 11, 2017
Emma Dumain
The Sacramento Bee

Mick Zais is on his way to becoming deputy education secretary. And despite having a very similar record as the department’s first-in-command, Betsy DeVos, his nomination so far is prompting little to none of the same public outrage.

The two Republican senators who opposed DeVos don’t seem concerned about him. Democratic-leaning groups are mobilizing, but concede their efforts are, so far, not sparking much ire from the grassroots.

That doesn’t mean Zais is without his critics on Capitol Hill. Like DeVos, the former South Carolina education superintendent is a strong advocate of “school choice,” which Democrats fear is a euphemism for favoring private, parochial and charter schools at the expense of adequately supporting public education. He isn’t likely to get any Democratic support.

“Wisconsin has a long tradition of supporting public education, including early childhood education, and I don’t believe he will help advance that tradition,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., who plans to vote against Zais, said in a statement.

Zais’ tenure as state education superintendent from 2011 to 2015, was marred by controversy. He elicited an outcry — and threats of a lawsuit — from the State Board of Education for refusing to apply for various federal public education grant programs.