Democratic rep says Trump education official lied to Congress

Democratic rep says Trump education official lied to Congress
"Betsy DeVos" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

That the Department of Education under Trump appointee Betsy DeVos, a longtime advocate of for-profit education companies, would apparently bend over backward to try to save a struggling for-profit education company is not surprising. The frequent failures of for-profit efforts, and their often-dismal actual educational outcomes, continue to complicate privatization proponents' efforts to whittle down the nation's public education system in favor of something it is easier to squeeze money out of.

But it's looking like one of DeVos' underlings lied to Congress about actions the department took to bail out Dream Center Education Holdings, a megachurch foray into the world of for-profit trade schools. Former for-profit college lobbyist Diane Auer Jones, now installed as the head of the department's higher education policy, told the House Oversight Committee that a new policy allowing schools which had lost their accreditations to be "retroactively" re-accredited had, quote, "nothing to do with the Dream Center," and that she did not even know the company was in an accreditation crisis when the policy was being crafted.

The problem with that? The chairman of the House Education Committee, Democratic Rep. Robert Scott of Virginia, uncovered internal Dream Center documents that seem to indicate Jones was lying outright about both those things. As reported by The New York Times, the documents show that Jones was personally in contact with accreditors about Dream Center's problems—a week before Jones claimed she first learned of the company's troubles.

Similarly awkward for Jones: The company's chief operating officer told his faculty that he had spoken with Jones about changing accreditation policy to allow "retroactive" accreditations. Rep. Scott has a recording of that company meeting. And while the department's policies did not save the failing company, a "retroactive" re-accreditation could have staved off student lawsuits charging that the company had misled them about its accreditation status.

Rep. Scott is, as you might imagine, peeved. There's no apparent way to square the Department of Education official's testimony to Congress with the documents at hand, and Jones appears to have misled the Oversight Committee.

Jones and the Department of Education are continuing to portray their involvement strictly as a noble effort to help the students of the struggling, soon-to-be-shuttered schools. That's a lovely sentiment, but doesn't explain the apparent "lying to Congress" part.


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