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U.S. Department of Education

Former Indiana school choice official lands in Betsy DeVos’s education department

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is tapping former Indiana schools officials as she staffs up the federal education department.

Neil Ruddock joined the department in early February after several years working at former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s foundation, according to records obtained by ProPublica, which investigated the “beachhead teams” that the Trump administration is installing at federal agencies.

Before joining Bush’s foundation (where DeVos served on the board) in 2012, Ruddock headed school choice programs in Indiana’s education department policy and research office for three years. During his tenure, the state launched and then expanded a school voucher program that could be a model as DeVos seeks to expand school choice across the country.

Here’s how Ruddock describes his accomplishments in that role, according to his LinkedIn page:

  • Oversaw Indiana’s Choice Scholarship program, which enrolled over 3900 students in Year 1 despite a (short) 10-week application period and tight implementation window;
  • Also managed Indiana’s tax credit scholarship program;
  • Prior to running Indiana’s choice programs, served IDOE as policy advisor and helped develop the framework for Indiana’s Putting Students First legislative agenda enacted in 2011.

The beachhead positions are technically temporary, but many people filling them are likely to wind up in permanent jobs. So far, the education department has moved slowly to fill positions, especially for roles that require policy expertise.

But other former Hoosiers have already appeared on the roster. They include Andrew Kossack, who worked with Ruddock at the state education department and at Bush’s foundation — and who recently endorsed Ruddock on LinkedIn.