Senate Confirms New Chief for Federal Special Education Office

By Christina Samuels

Johnny Collett, a former state director of special education for Kentucky, was confirmed by voice vote Thursday to be the assistant secretary for the office of special education and rehabilitative services.
The confirmation was expected: Collett is respected in the special education community and his confirmation hearing was uneventful, despite efforts by Democrats on the Senate HELP committee to pin him down on some hot-button issues, such as vouchers for students with disabilities.
Students in special education who accept vouchers to attend private school lose the individual protections granted under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; Democrats have argued that U.S. Secretary of Education  Betsy DeVos’ support of such vouchers will ultimately end up causing harm to these students. Collett said during his hearing that he would work with the secretary and others to respond to a recommendation from the Government Accountability Office that parents be provided accurate information about the impact of accepting a voucher.
Collett’s most recent position was as director of special education outcomes at the Council of Chief State School Officers. He started his career as a high school special education teacher, working eight years in Scott County, Ky., and graduated from the University of Kentucky and from Georgetown College, also in Kentucky.
Photo:  Johnny Collett, the nominee to head up federal special education programs, at his Dec. 5 Senate confirmation hearing.—Tasos Katopodis for Education Week