Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced on Wednesday the launch of 'DeVos Watch,' a new initiative tasked with holding Education Secretary Betsy DeVos accountable and ensuring that the Department of Education serves students, "not the industries that make money off them."
In an op-ed for CNN, Warren explained the motivation behind the "oversight effort."
Two of Secretary DeVos' first hires at the Department were Robert Eitel and Taylor Hansen, both with deep connections to institutions that make big money by abusing the student aid program and preying on students. Eitel was a top lawyer from a for-profit college that recently paid a more than $30 million fine to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for allegedly "deceiving students into taking out private student loans that cost more than advertised;" that for-profit college is currently under both state and federal investigation for breaking laws meant to protect students. Meanwhile, Hansen had been a top lobbyist for the entire for-profit college industry, which has paid out hundreds of millions in fines for defrauding students.
"The revolving door that shuttles people between government jobs and the corporations they police is corrosive," Warren added, "but it is rarely this brazen."
Warren's initiative comes at a time of intensifying opposition to Devos's agenda. Earlier this month, in response to her remark that historically black colleges and universities were "real pioneers when it comes to school choice," graduates of Bethune-Cookman University turned their backs on and booed DeVos as she delivered a commencement address.
DeVos, a billionaire, has long been a militant supporter of charter schools, and she has used her wealth to shape public policy—particularly in her home state of Michigan, where evidence of her influence is abundant.
"The revolving door that shuttles people between government jobs and the corporations they police is corrosive—but it is rarely this brazen."
—Elizabeth Warren"In Detroit, parents of school-age children have plenty of choices, thanks to the nation's largest urban network of charter schools. What remains in short supply is quality," reported the Washington Post's last year. "In Brightmoor, the only high school left is Detroit Community Schools, a charter boasting more than a decade of abysmal test scores and, until recently, a superintendent who earned $130,000 a year despite a dearth of educational experience or credentials."
Similar stories abound in states throughout the nation, where charter schools have failed to deliver on their promises and are often not subjected to the same accountability standards as public schools.
With 'DeVos Watch,' Warren intends to closely scrutinize charters, as well as for-profit colleges that have for decades preyed on students for profit. She also promises to continue holding the Department of Education accountable, no matter which party occupies the White House.
Warren notes that in the past she has "challenged the Democrat-led Department of Education to clean up its act on student loans."
"Now that DeVos is responsible for appointing the next head of the trillion dollar federal student aid office," Warren notes, the stakes are even higher—and she intends to uphold the same high standard.
In launching 'DeVos Watch,' Warren is expressing solidarity with school teachers and union representatives who have over the last several months voiced their opposition to school choice, which has been denounced by critics as a "scam."
Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, labeled DeVos's confirmation "a sad day for children," and called on teachers and organizers to serve as "fierce fighters" for public eduation.
The 'Devos Watch' initiative sets out to provide resources for the opposition through its website, which also opens the door for whistleblowers "to share information with Senator Warren and her staff that could provide insight into whether or not the Education Department's actions are legal and ethical, and whether they honor the trust that students and taxpayers put in the Department."