Sunday, September 18, 2005

Paige, top aides now education consultants

Sunday, September 18, 2005 - 12:00 AM
Paige, top aides now education consultants
By Ben Feller
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Rod Paige and his former top aides at the Education Department have organized a consulting group to offer high-dollar advice on policies they helped create and later enforced, including the controversial No Child Left Behind Act.

Paige, who resigned as education secretary 10 months ago, has agreed to be chairman of Chartwell Education Group.

The firm, which has begun soliciting business, is seeking clients ranging from state school chiefs to foreign leaders.

It is not unusual for Washington, D.C., officials to become consultants after leaving government. But this venture involves virtually an entire leadership team from President Bush's first term.

"We're pretty confident that we're heading into a place where there's a void," said John Danielson, Paige's former chief of staff and the new company's chief executive officer.

"You have lobbying firms out there, you have smaller consultancies on specific issues, but you don't have a comprehensive firm in education like this one," Danielson said.

Danielson confirmed details about the company in an interview.

At least three other former Education Department managers have signed up:

• William Hansen, the No. 2 department official under Paige, is known for expertise in higher education. He held several positions at the department, including transition-team director for Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney after their election.

• Susan Sclafani, who was Paige's chief federal adviser on matters of vocational and adult education.

• Ron Tomalis, who had a pivotal role in enforcing the No Child Left Behind law as acting assistant secretary over elementary and secretary education.

Patricia Sullivan, director of the Center on Education Policy, said Paige's team did not have a reputation in office for showing the flexibility many potential clients may want.

At the same time, she said, "they provide access, in terms of relationships with the White House, Capitol Hill and Congress, and access to knowledge of the bureaucracy. I can't think of a person who knows the workings of the Department of Education more than Bill Hansen."

Under Bush's prodding, Congress in 2001 passed the most sweeping federal education law in a generation. It aims to get all children up to par in reading and math by 2014. But states and districts have battled the Education Department over the way the law is enforced.

By law, former senior officers may not engage in business dealings with the agency for at least one year from the date they departed, a restriction that would still apply to Paige and Sclafani. Danielson said the company is not a lobbying firm and will not seek business with the government.

In practice, however, the line between lobbying and consulting is often unclear, said Kent Cooper, co-founder of the PoliticalMoneyLine Web site.

Last week, Ron Peiffer, a Maryland Education Department official, met with company leaders to discuss their services.

"It seemed like a powerful group, very impressive in terms of what they could bring to the table," said Peiffer, deputy superintendent for academic policy in Maryland. "Having the secretary there, and many of these other folks that we've dealt with in various other capacities, it was interesting."

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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