American Federation of Teachers sues DeVos over repeal of for-profit regulations

American Federation of Teachers sues DeVos over repeal of for-profit regulations
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The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Education Department and Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosSpecial counsel investigating DeVos for potential Hatch Act violation: report NEA president says Azar and DeVos should resign over school reopening guidance The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - You might want to download TikTok now MORE for her repeal of Obama-era regulations covering for-profit colleges and universities. 

The AFT, alongside Student Defense, a legal and advocacy organization for students, said DeVos had pushed through “a repeal riddled with errors and unfounded assertions” of the Gainful Employment Rule.

The rule, enacted in 2014, required colleges and universities to maintain a certain student debt-to-earning ratio, according to NBC News. The rule also effectively blocked for-profit colleges from receiving aid under the Higher Education Act Title IV student programs, in addition to other regulations for colleges and universities.

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DeVos repealed the law in June, after previously delaying regulations that imposed requirements on for-profit colleges and universities.

The AFT and Student Defense are calling for a reverse of the repeal, re-establishing the regulations for for-profit colleges. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

“[The lawsuit] argues the repeal puts students at the mercy of for-profit schools with a documented history of leaving borrowers with worthless degrees and tens of thousands of dollars of debt they cannot repay,” the organizations said in a Wednesday statement. They claim that the rule saved taxpayers $5.3 billion by blocking federal funds from being used to support “failing programs.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten accused DeVos of siding “with profiteers, not borrowers.” 

“Rather than simply sticking with a rule that protects students, she writes a new one on behalf of her for-profit college friends — and can’t even get the details right," she said in a Wednesday statement. "This error-ridden repeal would be comical if the stakes weren’t so high, but for borrowers confronting a lifetime of debt and worthless degrees, their lives are literally on the line.”

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In a June 2017 statement, DeVos said the move allowed “additional time for institutions to comply with overly burdensome Gainful Employment regulations," saying that the “current rules would unfairly and arbitrarily limit students' ability to pursue certain types of higher education and career training programs."

"Since their creation under the previous administration, Gainful Employment regulations have been repeatedly challenged by educational institutions and overturned by the courts, underscoring the need for a regulatory reset," DeVos said. "We need to get this right for our students, and we need to get this right for our institutions of higher education." 

The case alleges that the department did not comply with the law in repealing the Obama-era rule, for example, misinterpreting “the evidence that supported the gainful employment rule and justifies its repeal without sufficient evidence” and failing “to adequately consider reasonable alternatives to repeal.” 

Department of Education press secretary Angela Morabito said in a statement to The Hill that “the Department will vigorously defend its final regulation rescinding this deeply flawed rule.”

The case was also filed on behalf of the California Federation of Teachers as well as individual members. The Wednesday statement lists Isai Baltezar, a fifth-grade teacher in Santa Cruz, Calif., and Julie Cho, a lecturer at the University of California at Irvine. Both are considering postsecondary programs, although they “have been unable to find the information they need about programs’ outcome measures.”

— Updated at 10:06 a.m.