South Carolina’s former schools chief has been nominated to the nation’s number-two education position.
The White House announced Wednesday that President Donald Trump nominated Mitchell “Mick” Zais as deputy secretary of education. Zais served one term as state Education Superintendent from 2011-2015 but did not seek reelection. Prior to his term, he led private Newberry College for 10 years and was a state higher education commissioner.
Zais shares similar views on “school choice” as current U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and worked to expand the number of children in charter schools or online classes during his time as superintendent.
While graduation rates and high school SAT scores improved slightly during his tenure, Zais also alienated many education groups with his efforts to improve accountability in ways those groups believed heavy-handed. He pushed to make student performance a larger percentage of teacher evaluations and unsuccessfully pushed to assign letter grades for school districts based on academic progress.
But school advocates were also frustrated by his decisions to reduce the agency’s budget, even turning down federal funds when he believed it came with too many “strings” attached. He also opposed Common Core guidelines in South Carolina.
Zais is a retired brigadier general who served in the military more than 30 years, serving in Vietnam.
The U.S. Senate will need to approve Zais’ nomination.