The oversight-free party is over for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, with Democratic Rep. Robert Scott now in charge of the House Education Committee. He’s got a long and growing list of issues Democrats are going to hold DeVos accountable for.
Among the things Democrats are planning: requiring the department to hold states accountable for achievement gaps between white students and students of color, as the law requires; asking for an explanation for why the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools was reinstated after it had been stripped of its certification by the previous administration: and, in a new revelation, obtaining a response as to why her department is interfering in its inspector general’s investigation into her decision to reinstate ACICS. Scott also wants to know DeVos’ “justifications for rescinding policies meant to protect black students from being disproportionately suspended and placed in special education and student borrowers from predatory lenders and higher-education diploma mills.”
Scott says he’s less interested in a public grilling of DeVos than in having accountability. “Theater doesn’t advance anybody’s agenda,” he told the New York Times. “I’m interested in what research and evidence they used to come to these conclusions.” He apparently held his tongue firmly in cheek by suggesting that there was actual research and evidence behind any of DeVos’ policy decisions.
Scott has important allies in these efforts, the Times points out: Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut. The Maryland Democrat is chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and his intervening with DeVos apparently helped her decide to halt the effort to replace the inspector general who is investigating her. Cummings says he will look into the “countless decisions that have negatively impacted students across the country, including dismantling protections against predatory for-profit lenders.” For her part, DeLauro, who is chair of the Appropriations subcommittee on education, says that she will “hold the secretary accountable for the hollowing out of the Education Department” through staffing and program cuts, and fight DeVos’ privatization schemes. “I believe that, overall, the mission of the Department of Education these days is to privatize public education,” she said, “and I want to block them.”
Because that’s what Article I of the Constitution demands. And because one congressional body has no interest in fulfilling its duties, as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is far more interested in amassing his personal power than making the institution of the Senate work.