Washington education administrator moves to Senate confirmation to become Biden’s special education chief

WASHINGTON — On Feb. 10, a divided Senate education committee advanced the nomination of Washington education administrator Glenna Gallo to lead the U.S. Department of Education’s special education program.

“I think she’s fabulous,” said Ilene Schwartz, a special education professor at the University of Washington. “The only bad thing I can say about her is that she’s going to leave Washington State.”

Gallo, who has served as the state’s deputy superintendent of special education since 2017, is a former special education teacher and administrator with more than 25 years of experience in the field. Previously, she served for seven years as the State Director of Special Education for the Utah State Board of Education.

All Democrats on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and three Republicans – the senses. Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine – voted to advance Gallo’s nomination. The committee advanced by voice vote three other work-related nominations.

The eight Republicans who voted against Gallo did not respond to requests for comment.

“I don’t see anyone in the country who is more qualified than her for this job,” Schwartz said, adding, “I really think the only reason people didn’t vote for her was politics, not because of his qualifications.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Katherine Neas has served as Acting Assistant Secretary since July, effectively leading the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services.

The National Association of State Directors of Special Education, where Gallo served as president twice, called her appointment “an outstanding choice.”

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona praised Gallo when President Joe Biden first nominated her in November.

“Glenna brings decades of deep expertise in special education and a strong background in supporting students with disabilities to this role,” Cardona said in a statement. “During her work in Washington State as Deputy Superintendent of Special Education, Glenna oversaw millions of dollars for special education programs across the state and worked to ensure that these programs supported and adequately raise students with disabilities.”

In Washington, which lags behind most states when it comes to students with disabilities, Gallo has prioritized increasing special education funding and implementing inclusive practices.

Under Gallo, a state investigation found Seattle Public Schools violated federal law when the district failed to pay for nursing care for 11 students with disabilities. State officials ordered the district to provide medical care to students and make up for the delays students were facing getting the originally promised in-person instruction because of their disabilities.

It’s unclear when the full Senate will vote on the nomination. The office of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

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