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Monday, February 9, 2009
His pick as the department's assistant secretary for civil rights, Russlynn Ali, is known mainly for her work with organizations focused on trying to reform K-12 education. As discussed in detail in an article on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog, she is vice president of the Education Trust and executive director of its West Coast-based partner organization, Education Trust-West. Although both groups are focused on helping Hispanic, black, Native American, and low-income students, they do so by promoting high academic achievement, not by advocating civil rights.
Ms. Ali previously served as liaison to the president of the Children's Defense Fund and as chief of staff to the president of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. Her last major stint focusing on civil-rights laws was a position as deputy co-director of the Advancement Project, a Washington-based advocacy group that describes itself as dedicated to promoting racial justice.
Despite her having much less of a reputation as a civil-rights advocate than as an education activist, William L. Taylor, chairman of the Citizens Commission on Civil Rights, told the Chronicle he welcomed the selection of Ms. Ali, saying "I think she is a strong advocate for children."