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Mich. lawmaker in line for education post under DeVos

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing – Michigan state Rep. Tim Kelly said Monday he is prepared to resign his House seat for a new job with U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in Washington, D.C.

The Saginaw Township Republican expects DeVos to appoint him as assistant secretary of technical and adult education, he told The Detroit News on Monday, noting he still has to complete background checks and other vetting before the post becomes official – likely later this summer.

“It just kind of came out of nowhere,” said Kelly, a term-limited legislator who chairs the state House Education Reform Committee and the K-12 appropriations subcommittee.

The process began four or five weeks ago when U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, asked him to submit a letter to DeVos, the state lawmaker said. Other Republican congressional members wrote a letter vouching for him, he explained, and “Betsy connected with me Friday.”

Gongwer subscription news service first reported Kelly’s expected federal appointment. A spokesman with the U.S. Department of Education did not immediately confirm the pending hire.

Kelly is a leading school choice advocate in the Michigan Legislature and told The News “it’s fair to say” he is philosophically aligned with DeVos, who advocated for school vouchers and charter schools at the state and national level before President Donald Trump named her education secretary.

“We both believe in universal choice, but this (position) is more about trying to do what we can for kids, instead of loading them up with debt and pushing everybody into four-year college degrees, maybe seeing what we can do for kids who might do well in technical training,” Kelly said.

Kelly previously worked as an education policy adviser under Republican former Gov. John Engler and helped create the Michigan Department of Workforce Development. He was also chairman of the Saginaw County Republican Party from 2006 to 2010. He won election in 2012 to his first of three terms in the state House.

Kelly is not the only state legislator in line for a federal appointment under the Trump administration. State Sen. Mike Green, R-Mayville, said this month he is prepared to resign to become the next state director of rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.