A U.S. Magistrate Judge issued a dire warning to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over her inability to follow a court order that was issued a year ago forbidding her to seek out loan payments from a for-profit college.
According to reporting from The Root, students who sought out loans to go to Corinthian Colleges Inc. (which has since gone bankrupt) were promised to have their debts forgiven, on account of the school defrauding the students in the first place.
However, the Department of Education, under DeVos’s watch, has only forgiven 10 student loans originating from that school since the order was made. Conversely, thousands of other students have been targeted by the department to pay their loans, in spite of the court order from June 2018.
Judge Sallie Kim ruled back then that the penalty for continuing to seek out loans from these students could be jail time for the Education secretary. On Monday, Kim said she was “astounded” to discover that’s precisely what was happening, Newsweek reported.
In fact, more than 16,000 students “were incorrectly informed at one time or another…that they had payments due on their federal student loans,” Kim said earlier this week.
“At best it is gross negligence, at worst it’s an intentional flouting of my order,” the judge emphasized.
A federal judge has tacitly threatened Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos with jail for her ongoing failure (or refusal) to comply with court orders in a student loan case.https://t.co/FrgaJJqmDm
— Amy Siskind 🏳️🌈 (@Amy_Siskind) October 8, 2019
Kim added that she didn’t know exactly how she would proceed at this time, but she pointed out in her statement that there had to be “consequences” for what had happened, given that her order seemed to have been violated over “sixteen thousand times,” she said.
“I’m not sure if this is contempt or sanctions. I’m not sending anyone to jail yet but it’s good to know I have that ability,” she added.
DeVos was appointed by President Donald Trump at the start of his presidential term in office, and received confirmation from the Senate in February 2017. Hers was a contentious appointment, and the Senate was split 50-50 regarding her becoming the secretary of Education. Vice President Mike Pence cast the deciding vote in her favor, approving her appointment, the New York Times reported at the time.
Two Republican senators crossed the aisle to vote against DeVos, who had limited-to-no experience in public education prior to becoming the head of the Department of Education. One of those two, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, explained her misgivings toward DeVos, who had previously worked diligently in favor of private voucher schools before joining the administration.
“I have serious concerns about a nominee to be secretary of education who has been so involved in one side of the equation, so immersed in the push for vouchers, that she may be unaware of what actually is successful within the public schools, and also what is broken and how to fix them,” Murkowski said.
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