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Ex-education chief to give paid advice on own policies

Paige, aides form consulting firm

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

Paige, who resigned as education secretary 10 months ago, has accepted a post as chairman of the Chartwell Education Group, based in New York.

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

It is not unusual for Washington officials to become consultants after leaving government. But this venture involves almost 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 firm's chief executive officer. ''You have smaller consultancies on specific issues, but you don't have a comprehensive firm in education like this one."

In an interview, Danielson confirmed details about the company. At least three other former Education Department managers have signed up. They are:

William Hansen, the deputy to Paige when he was secretary. Hansen, known for expertise in higher education, held several positions at the department, including transition team director for Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney after their election.

Susan Sclafani, who, like Paige, came to Washington from the Houston Independent School District. She was Paige's chief federal adviser on vocational and adult education.

Ron Tomalis, who helped enforce the No Child Left Behind law as an acting assistant education secretary.

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

But Sullivan also said ''they provide access, in terms of relationships with the White House, Capitol Hill, and Congress."

Under Bush's prodding, in 2001 Congress passed the No Left Behind Act, 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.

Danielson said the firm will offer help with the No Child Left Behind plan, but its mission is broader, from early education to graduate school. The company will market itself to foundations, companies, and states, as well as countries seeking to model the American education system.

By law, former senior officers may not engage in business dealings with the education department for at least one year from they 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, that line between lobbying and consulting is often unclear, said Kent Cooper, cofounder of the Political Money Line website.

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