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Sens. Burr and Coburn Push for DoE Probe


Posted by Christopher Prandoni, Billy Gribbin on Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010, 3:34 PM PERMALINK


With the Obama agenda receiving a thorough rebuke on November 2nd, liberal prerogatives are sure to take a back seat in the 112th Congress. In response to the impending Congressional logjam, Democrats are utilizing obscure federal agencies to implement their preferred policies.  

With Cap-and-Trade dead, the EPA is issuing strict rules to inhibit the construction of coal fired power plants. The National Labor Relations Board and National Mediations Board are facilitating unionization, as Card Check is unlikely to pass congress anytime soon. In the same vein, the Department of Education has issued rules which would prohibit for-profit colleges from receiving federal aid if data shows that their graduates have poor records of repaying government loans—a metric being called “gainful employment.”

Cutting off federal aid to profit schools would put them at an even greater competitive disadvantage. Public schools, being funded by the state, do have many of the same budgetary constraints as their private counterparts. Financial reform has been hard to accomplish in public education; after all, no politician wants to be the one cutting off resources to a local college.  The increased regulations being proposed by the Department will only serve to further imbalance a playing field which is already tilted in favor of taxpayer-funded public schools.  That the Obama administration supports this approach should come as no surprise; under such liberal guidance the Department always serves to expand its domain rather than the interests of the nation’s students.

Senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) have requested that Kathleen S. Tighe, Inspector General for the Department of Education, initiate an investigation into the Department’s handling of its upcoming regulations. In their joint letter, the Senators expressed alarm concerning the Department’s recent “gainful employment” proposals:

“Information has become available that raises serious concerns about whether some negotiators failed to comply with the organizational protocols governing the rulemaking process and other laws governing these proceedings. In addition, publicly available documents indicate the Department may have leaked the proposed regulations to parties supporting the administration’s position and investors who stand to benefit from the failure of the proprietary school sector.”

The Senators’ note that a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was submitted in July by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) regarding “the extent to which Education has knowingly relied on, or has been manipulated by, the views of individuals who seek to advance their financial interests in the for-profit industry by publicly criticizing certain for-profit education entities and companies.”  The CREW inquiry has not yet been met with a response.

Burr and Coburn go on to cite information obtained from a Florida public records request, revealing that Edie Irons, Communications Director for TICAS, emailed an embargoed copy of the program regulations to various individuals a full day before the document’s scheduled release.  The Senators are concerned that if such information is being prematurely and selectively distributed it may have easily fallen into the hands of groups which “stand to benefit financially from the failure of the proprietary sector.”

The pressing questions asked by Sens. Burr and Coburn are made even more urgent by the Department’s mysterious recalcitrance in providing answers.  With controversial regulations such as these, and the future of American education at stake, the Department of Education cannot afford to remain silent much longer.

Click here for a copy of the Senators' letter.

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