Philadelphia resident who was high-ranking California Dept. of Education official resigns

State News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL/KGET) — A high-ranking official in the California Department of Education has resigned after a report showed he had been collecting more than $160,000 on the taxpayers’ dime while living and mostly working on the East Coast.

California’s first-ever deputy superintendent of equity, Dr. Daniel Lee, has resigned, a spokesperson for the Department of Education confirmed Wednesday.

The resignation comes after Politico first reported Lee is a Philadelphia resident who had been friends with California Superintendent Tony Thurmond for more than two decades.

Lee is a psychologist, published author and board member of the New Jersey Psychological Association.

He is shown on video from an October hearing in front of the California Assembly’s Education and Health Committees discussing improving mental health services in schools.

“We have to change the climate and the space of schools,” Lee said. “We’re dealing with grief, we’re dealing with wildfires, and that’s a whole level of environmental trauma that we need to think about as we’re rolling out these projects.”

The Department of Education’s nonprofit affiliate hired Lee for the position when it was created in July of 2020.

The deputy superintendent of equity focused on equity in counseling, social-emotional learning and other student programs, according to the Department of Education. The job pays up to nearly $180,000 in a taxpayer-funded salary.

Politico reported Thurmond played a key role in Lee’s hiring, the job was never posted and Department of Education officials could not say if anyone else interviewed for the position.

Lee’s resume didn’t show any previous experience in California or relationships with any school districts in the state.

In a statement Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Department of Education said, “Following updated guidance from CalHR, Dr. Lee offered, and we have accepted, his resignation. We thank him for his work building and advancing CDE’s educational equity and student mental health agendas.”

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Rocklin, is the vice chairman of the Assembly Education Committee.

“It’s good that he resigned because, apparently, this was against the law that he was hired in the first place,” Kiley said. “But we also need an investigation into exactly how he got on the taxpayer dime in the first place.”

The Department of Education said it will begin the candidate search to fill Lee’s position in the coming weeks.

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