Sen. Warren Rebrands Her Education Department Oversight: ‘DeVos Watch’

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., addresses business leaders during a New England Council luncheon at a hotel, Monday, March 27, 2017, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Steven Senne/AP

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Wednesday announced “DeVos Watch,” a hub on her official Senate website to monitor Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as she attempts to make major changes at the department she oversees.

“We’ll raise questions and concerns, and when we get reasonable answers, everybody will benefit from hearing them,” Warren said in a video announcing the effort Wednesday. “And when we don’t, everybody’s going to see that, too.”

Warren, a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), highlighted one such effort: Taylor Hansen, a former lobbyist for a trade group of for-profit colleges, left the Department of Education the same day Warren sent a letter to DeVos asking for information about his hiring and potential conflicts of interest. ProPublica, in its report on Hansen’s resignation about a month after taking the position, noted that he was part of the department’s “beachhead” team, which the publication described as “a group of temporary hires who do not require approval from the U.S. Senate for their appointments.”

Another official mentioned in that letter, Robert Eitel, is still working at the department. On May 22, Warren sent another letter, this time to the department’s designated ethics official, inquiring about Eitel’s adherence to “ethics standards that apply to all federal employees.” Before his hiring, Eitel was a compliance officer at Bridgepoint Education, a for-profit college operator.

Several other letters to the department, beginning in January, appear on DeVos Watch, including one from Democrats in both congressional chambers expressing their concerns over DeVos rescinding Obama-era memos outlining student loan servicing reforms.

DeVos Watch includes an email form for whistleblowers, and an op-ed from Warren published by CNN notes further tools to hold the education secretary accountable, “including Freedom of Information Act requests, public interest litigation by student advocates and state law enforcement officials and investigations by the Department’s nonpartisan Inspector General.”