Appointee Directory

Tracy R. Justesen -- Department of Education
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

President George W. Bush nominated Tracy R. Justesen as assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services on Nov. 15, 2007, and the Senate confirmed him to his post on Dec. 19, 2007. He is Secretary Margaret Spellings' principal adviser on special education, vocational rehabilitation and disability and rehabilitation research. His office, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), implements a wide range of federal programs in these areas. During the coming year, OSERS will focus on improving access to special education programs and services through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB); implementing IDEA's Part B regulations, which require a free and appropriate public education for all students from ages 3 to 21; promoting the successful transition to college and other postsecondary opportunities for young people with disabilities; and improving employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities, said Justesen. A native of Orangeville, Utah, Justesen attended Emery County public schools before graduating summa cum laude with his bachelor's degree in political science from Southern Utah University in Cedar City. After working for two years as a staff member at Utah State University in Logan and one year at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., Justesen returned to Utah State, where he earned his master's in special education. He later earned his J.D. degree with honors from Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Iowa. After law school he served as the president and CEO of the Ability Center of Greater Toledo, Ohio, where he worked for a year before joining the U.S. Department of Education as a career program specialist. A year later, he was offered a post as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, a post he held until he returned to the Education Department in October 2007 as the deputy director of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the job he held until being confirmed as assistant secretary by the Senate. During his seven-year tenure at the Justice Department—in addition to completing an LL.M. degree in international law at George Washington University—Justesen carried out three high-profile assignments. First, he was a technical adviser to the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education to conduct research and help write the 2002 report A New Era: Revitalizing Special Education for Children and Their Families. During 2004–05, he was detailed to serve as the associate director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, working to implement the New Freedom Initiative and draft two executive orders, No. 13347 (on emergency preparedness for persons with disabilities) and No. 13360 (on opportunities for disabled veterans). Finally, from 2005 to 2007, he served as the U.S. delegate-adviser to the U.N. Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In his spare time, prior to rejoining the Department, Justesen worked for two years on a pro bono basis representing abused children in District of Columbia courts for the nonprofit Lawyers for Children America. In May 2000, he received a special honor from one of his alma maters, the College of Eastern Utah, for his work in public service. Justesen divides his time between a residence in the Washington, D.C., area and his home in central Utah's Manti Range mountains.

Tracy R. Justesen