Betsy DeVos and her bear friend shrug as a student loan borrower struggles with repaying her loans (illustrated)

It’s one thing to be a slacker, but quite another to order all your coworkers not to do their jobs.

Yet that’s the basic stance taken by Betsy DeVos, a woman who wouldn’t have a job in any administration but Trump’s. She’s trying to block states’ student loan rules, even though she doesn’t understand her own. Those rules are essential protections to keep college grads from getting ripped off in repayment.

DeVos barely won enough Republican support to get the job — she’s the first presidential cabinet nominee in history to require a tiebreaker vote from the vice president — and hasn’t done a thing to bolster anybody’s confidence since. The nicest that can be said about her is she’s not milking first-class plane tickets or buying fancy furniture for the office on the taxpayer dime, like other Trump cabinet members.

I’ve come to expect nothing from her on student loans and protecting borrowers from predatory companies, but now she’s doing worse than nothing by telling states they can’t do anything, either — even as she tries to shrink the department and its responsibilities to suit her lack of expertise and interest.

A wasted year

DeVos’ tenure has been marked by “listening tours” and supposedly trying to understand how this whole education system thing works and why regulations are so gosh-darned complicated — tasks you would expect her to already have some background in for the job of overseeing the nation’s school system, but alas.

She has no education degree, no experience working in a school environment, and never attended a public grade school or university. The only “education experience” she has is in trying to push “school choice” — including many for-profit options. 60 Minutes recently asked her how well that worked out (spoiler alert: it didn’t) in Michigan, where she spent millions on that agenda…

“Now, has that happened in Michigan?” [correspondent Lesley] Stahl responded. Michigan is DeVos’s home state, and the Education secretary as a private citizen spent millions to back school-choice efforts in that state.

“Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?” Stahl asked.

“I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better,” DeVos responded.

She later added: “I hesitate to talk about all schools in general because schools are made up of individual students attending them.”

Stahl also recommended that DeVos visit schools that are underperforming, to which she responded, “Maybe I should. Yes.”

Consequently, most of what she’s done is “streamline” or ignore anything she doesn’t understand, which last year led to a battle with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over student loan forgiveness. A Republican Congress and the resignation of CFPB Director Richard Cordray ensured victory there, so now she’s turning to fight the many states which think she is neglecting and failing students.

She disappointed both parties in Congress last week by repeatedly arguing, essentially, that everything was Congress’ job to fix, not hers. That, or the states…

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the ranking member on the Appropriations committee, engaged in a lengthy exchange with DeVos about whether states or the federal government had the responsibility to provide parents with information about the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal program.

“IDEA is a federal law, and where federal funds are involved in states, the federal government has a role. But this is a matter for states,” DeVos said at one point during the exchange.

“I don’t understand this,” Lowey said in one of her many attempts to clarify the situation. “You’re saying it’s up to the states. You don’t have any leadership role in presenting the facts? I just want to make sure I understand what you’re saying.”

After nearly eight minutes of confusion, Lowey relented.

“Why don’t we follow up at another time?” she offered.

How strange she would say a federal law and federal funds are up to states to manage when it comes to people with disabilities, but when it comes to student loans, she says states need to back off.

State regulation “impedes uniquely federal interests”

The Education Department wants to ease off of regulations on student loan servicers, the companies that handle all our federal student loan payments.

Last year, it tried to consolidate all student loan payments under one servicer — and seemed to be leaning toward Navient, the one that was already being sued by the federal government for ripping students off $4 billion. Mercifully, it backed off that bad idea, but hasn’t abandoned others.

That led 18 states to sue the department, basically begging it to do its job. Many states are considering and passing their own regulations on servicers to ensure some accountability until someone smarter than DeVos takes over.

Now, DeVos is publishing a rule arguing that states have no right to step in even as her department steps back. “State regulation of the servicing of Direct Loans impedes uniquely Federal interests, and State regulation of the servicing of the FFEL Program is preempted to the extent that it undermines uniform administration of the program.”

Nowhere does she make a compelling case how states challenging servicers on unfair or deceptive practices on behalf of its residents in any way “impedes federal interests,” or frankly explain what those interests are.

So it’s no surprise multiple states have already said they’ll ignore this interpretation of the law, or that the bipartisan National Governors Association voiced its “concern” the department is trying to establish a “regulatory ceiling.”

What is surprising is that Betsy DeVos still has a job, and that she isn’t getting any better at it.

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Article last modified on July 12, 2018. Published by, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: The Education Department Is Fighting to Do Nothing - AMP.

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Article last modified on July 12, 2018. Published by, LLC .