Judges Keep Slapping Down Poor Betsy DeVos!
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is terrible at her job. Her objectives and overall mission are evil, but if it's any consolation she can't effectively implement them. After buying her Cabinet position at Sotheby's, DeVos has spent the past two years trying to roll back Obama-era policies designed to protect and actually educate students. Unfortunately for her evil schemes, federal courts keep smacking down her slimy efforts. It's getting embarrassing.
DeVos recently had to cancel $150 million in student loan debt after courts said her attempts to stop the "borrow defense" regulations from taking effect were in fact illegal. Last week, she was forced to instruct colleges to follow the Obama rule barring mandatory arbitration agreements. She got kicked in the teeth earlier this month when a federal judge ruled she'd acted illegally ... again. This time, DeVos tried to delay an Obama-era guideline that required states to address racial disparities in their special education programs. Judge Tanya S. Chutkan called the delay "arbitrary" and "capricious."
The rule, drafted under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, would require states to identify districts with "significant disproportionality" in the number of minority students channeled into special education services, segregated in restrictive classroom settings or disciplined.
OK, so what was the "education" secretary's issue with this rule? We want to imagine there's some rationale we're not seeing and DeVos is more than just some yacht-collecting monster.
States had been preparing to enforce the rule for more than a year. Why would she pull the rug out from under them? DeVos claimed her department needed more time to "study" the "potential consequences." She and her cronies were concerned that the rule could promote unconstitutional "racial quotas." Conservatives are always concerned about "racial quotas" when it seems like the government might give the smallest crap about black students. What does DeVos even know about the Constitution? She keeps getting sued.
An Education Department analysis estimated that adopting a "reasonable" standard would identify almost half of US school districts as having significant disproportions of minorities in their special education populations. DeVos moved to delay the rule even after a public comment period where the overwhelming majority expressed concern that "discriminatory practices were denying black and Hispanic students a proper education in a traditional classroom setting, and pushing them out of school to lives on the margins of society or in prison."
The advocacy group Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates sued over the delay last year. Executive Director Denise Marshall said the decision showed "the court has sided with children whom the [education] department had deemed unimportant through its actions." Or in other words: Screw you, Betsy.
Looks like DeVos is going to keep getting knocked down in court. A federal judge okayed a challenge to her delay of rules governing crappy online colleges. We can also expect a ruling soon on her attempt to postpone Obama's regulations cracking down on for-profit colleges. Many of those shoddy institutions saw DeVos as their savior but she's not even close to making water into wine.
Toby Merrill is the director of Harvard Law School's Project on Predatory Student Lending. It's brought just some of the lawsuits against DeVos. Merrill claims DeVos has demonstrated an "unwillingness" or "inability" to follow basic law regarding how federal agencies function. Judges tend to agree. Her delays have been called "procedurally invalid" and "unlawful." One judge said her half-assed argument against more consumer disclosures for online colleges took "chutzpah."
MERRILL: At the very least, [an administration will] cross their Ts and dot their Is and therefore are less vulnerable to some of the procedural challenges that have been the undoing of so many of this Department of Education's policies.
Fortunately, the education secretary that Jeb Bush claimed was an "outstanding pick" is just too basic to even screw over defenseless students efficiently. However, DeVos remains undaunted -- probably because she's not entirely sure what "daunted" means. She's currently trying to redefine what a "college instructor" actually is. The proposed change would allow anyone on a so-called "instructional team" to teach an online class without consideration for their actual "expertise, experience, or credentials." That might've been good enough for Republicans to confirm an education secretary, but we doubt her latest grift will survive true legal scrutiny.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).