U.S. House boosts funding for Dept. of Education watchdog amid clash with DeVos

    Betsy DeVos | Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

    The U.S. House approved on Thursday an amendment from U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) that would give $4 million to the cash-strapped office that provides oversight for the U.S. Department of Education.

    Levin said in a statement Thursday that the Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is unable to sufficiently carry out its duties as a watchdog at current employment levels.

    Breaking: White House ditches plan to replace DeVos’ in-house watchdog

    “The Department of Education has repeatedly violated the law in its rulemaking processes and continues to show little regard for its mission to protect students,” Levin said. “It’s time to increase funding for the Inspector General’s office so that it can fulfill its charge and conduct nonpartisan oversight.”

    The OIG has been a flashpoint between Democrats and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

    As the Advance first reported, the White House in February ditched a plan to replace its acting inspector general with the agency’s deputy general counsel, Phil Rosenfelt. That sparked a backlash from lawmakers and advocacy groups concerned about the independence of the OIG.

    Later that month, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) sent a letter to Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos demanding answers after she made and quickly reversed a decision to replace the OIG’s top investigator, in a move that he and other lawmakers said threatened the office’s independence.

    Peters wants answers from DeVos over effort to fire watchdog

    Per Levin’s amendment, the money would be moved from the Office of Labor-Management Standards, which enforces the law that governs unions’ internal affairs and relationships with employers. Levin claims the Trump administration has used that office to “harass unions.”

    U.S. Rep. Andy Levin at the Mackinac Policy Conference, May 30., 2019 | Andrew Roth

    “It is extremely telling that while the President called for across-the-board cuts to agency funding in his budget proposal, he asked for a funding increase to the office this Administration is misusing to bust unions,” Congressman Levin said.

    “That money is better spent holding Betsy DeVos accountable for abandoning her duty as the chief defender of our nation’s public schools.”

    The amendment was part of a broader appropriations bill for the fiscal year 2020 and was co-sponsored by 11 members of the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, including U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Rochester).

    Derek Robertson
    Derek Robertson is a former reporter for the Advance. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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