May 23, 2012

Romney Names Education Profiteer As Co-Chair Of His K-12 Education Committee

Romney Names Education Profiteer As Co-Chair Of His K-12 Education Committee
Nina Rees

EdWeek reports that presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has named the members of his K-12 Education Committee for his campaign:

Serving as Rommey’s K-12 committee co-chairs will be Nina S. Rees, a former assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement at the U.S. Department of Education and currently the senior vice president for strategic initiatives at Knowledge Universe; and Martin R. West, an assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and executive editor of Education Next.

Rees is a particularly interesting choice. She served as the deputy under secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the Department of Education under the Bush administration, where she advocated for school privatization through the expansion of school vouchers and other schemes that funnel public dollars to private educational institutions.
Shortly after leaving the government, Rees was immediately snatched through the revolving door by Knowledge Universe, a massive for-profit education company. She currently works for the company under the title of Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives.
Knowledge Universe was founded as a for-profit education company by former junk bond king Michael Milken  in 1996. By 2010, the company was reaching $1.6 billion in annual revenue, running a large variety of private early childhood, primary and secondary, higher education, and online education schools and programs.
Now that Rees has a strong hand in making Romney’s K-12 education policy, one has to wonder if she will craft policies overly friendly to the very same industry she works for (and which she also advocated for while still in government). It’s a potential — and powerful — conflict of interest that has great implications for America’s students.