Editorial: DeVos’ violation of court order shows her ineptitude


Alex Edelman | TNS

Betsy DeVos, secretary of education, speaks during the Wall Street Journal CFO Network conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 11.

Since the beginning of her time as secretary of education, Betsy DeVos hasn’t been incredibly popular with the American public.

She also hasn’t stayed out of the limelight for long, often making problematic statements — like her proposal earlier this year to cut funding for the Special Olympics while increasing spending on charter schools — or supporting educational initiatives with which many take issue. Most recently, DeVos again came under scrutiny for brazenly violating a court order thousands of times. This case sheds light on an Education Department run ineffectively, forming another major crack in the Trump administration.

The court order DeVos violated was meant to stop the Education Department from collecting loan payments from former students of Corinthian Colleges. The for-profit college filed for bankruptcy in 2015 after facing several lawsuits, leaving students without degrees and deep in debt — these types of schools often leave students in more debt and with fewer job prospects than non-profit colleges.

Under the Obama administration, students who had taken out loans for their Corinthian education were told that they would receive debt relief. However, a September court filing shows that the Education Department incorrectly informed 16,000 borrowers that they owed payment on their debt. Because of the department’s actions, about 1,800 people had their wages garnished or lost tax refunds.

The September court filing also said that the Education Department was taking steps to address this issue, such as posting information on its website, issuing refunds and notifying impacted students.

However, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim thought that these measures weren’t enough.

“Sending a couple of emails seems really minor in terms of making sure there is compliance with an order of this magnitude,” Kim said. “I’m astounded really, just really astounded.”

Kim also called the Education Department’s response “gross negligence.” DeVos could face sanctions or be found to be in contempt of court for this negligence. The judge is having both sides file arguments this month before she makes her final ruling regarding DeVos’ fate.

No matter what her punishment is, this whole incident — in which DeVos took money from debt-saddled students who were told they wouldn’t be responsible for these debts — shows exactly why DeVos should no longer continue as secretary of education. She has been unable to do her job properly, showing extreme negligence. In that light, it’s hard to trust her to fulfill any of her other duties in a way that is beneficial to Americans.

DeVos’ inadequate handling of Corinthian students’ debts is another failure of the Trump administration that has had real consequences for struggling students, and she certainly needs to face the consequences for her actions.

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