The top two Democratic lawmakers on education issues in Congress are asking for more details from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos about her stated plans to look for ways to trim the U.S. Department of Education.
In a Feb. 24 letter to DeVos, Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia and Sen. Patty Murray of Washington express concerns about DeVos’ comments to a Michigan radio talk show earlier this month that she would be auditing the department’s programs, and that she was confident there were unnecessary programs at the department. Those comments, the two lawmakers say, “raise questions” about what DeVos hopes to accomplish by such a review. (Scott and Murray are the top Democrats on the House and Senate education committees, respectively.)
“In fact, previous department budget requests have noted that current staff levels fall significantly short, endangering the department’s capacity to fulfill and enforce legal obligations” in several areas, from civil rights protections to data security, the joint letter states.
In their letter, Murray and Scott requested information about how DeVos planned to conduct her audit. Among other things, they asked about the scale and criteria for the audit; sought assurances that she would speak with congressional leaders before announcing or proposing any major programmatic changes; asked the extent to which White House staff and Education Department political appointees would be involved in the audit; and want to know the timeline for the audit. They also want DeVos to brief lawmakers on various committees about findings from any audit she conducts
A longtime major donor to the Republican Party, DeVos has been an outspoken advocate for limited government and conservative principles. President Donald Trump has also announced budget plans to cut 10 percent from nondefense discretionary spending in the upcoming fiscal year, although he has yet to outline how that will impact the Education Department specifically.