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Hearing Recap: Secretary Cardona Edition

With generational learning loss, seismic drops in test scores, foreign adversaries influencing American schools, and illegal mass debt cancellation for the wealthy as his track record, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona had the audacity to defend the Department’s request for billions more in taxpayer money.

Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) kicked off the Education and the Workforce Committee hearing by declaring that the Department’s track record should be evaluated before reviewing such a sizeable budget proposal. In her words: “Before turning to the budget proposal for which you are here to advocate, I’d like to lay out the concerns from this Committee – of the people’s elected representatives – to which you are derelict in responding.”

The Committee’s concerns are numerous. Already in the 118th Congress, Chairwoman Foxx has sent no less than 11 oversight letters to Secretary Cardona. The Department continues to be minimally responsive to the Committee.

Chairwoman Foxx opened the questioning by demanding a direct answer from Secretary Cardona on the Department’s plan to restart student loan repayment. She asked, “Have either you or [COO of FSA] Mr. Cordray spoken directly with the loan servicers about the restart any time during the period January 2023 through the present?”

Secretary Cardona responded, “As I said, the information that you requested will be provided and it will answer who from the Department has communicated.”

Typical. Secretary Cardona’s in-person responses to hard questioning resemble his responses in writing - vague answers shielded by the bureaucratic process and paperwork. How can the Department leave the Committee and loan servicers both in the dark on such a pressing issue?

Then, Representative Glenn Grothman (R-WI) keyed in on an even more fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats on the student loan crisis. He asked, “Can you agree that people should not take out more loans than they can afford?”

Secretary Cardona responded in surprising fashion: “Well, it all depends sir.”

Sticking with postsecondary education concerns, Chairman James Comer (R-KY) brought up a dual issue for him as both a Committee member and the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee. His concern is that universities are becoming a modern battleground for the information war with China, and we are falling behind thanks to the Department’s poor rulemaking and lack of compliance enforcement behind foreign gift-giving. “We have certain universities that are receiving enormous anonymous gifts from the Chinese Communist Party,” said Chairman Comer.

Representative Jim Banks (R-IN) then steered the conversation to the politically divisive curriculum advocated by the Department. In particular, he referred to an April 2021 proposed priority by the Department that cited Ibram X. Kendi and the 1619 Project as instructional examples for the basis of grant funding. Those references were removed upon updated guidance.

Rep. Banks asked, “Ibram X. Kendi argued that white people created the AIDS virus. Is that divisive?”

Secretary Cardona replied, “Sir, I would ask you to save the questions for perhaps that author.” How unconscionable that the Department cite the teachings of such a divisive figure in its changes to a History and Civics grant program and then flippantly dismiss a Committee member’s concerns of Kendi’s radical political views?

Moving to parental rights, Representative Bob Good revisited the memo from Attorney General Merrick Garland discussing the need for FBI investigation into parent school board meetings. Rep. Good asked, “Do you support AG Garland’s directive targeting parents who show up and express their concern at school board meetings?”

The Secretary responded, “Sir if you have questions for the Department of Justice, I would ask you to…”

Once again, another dodge. It’s ironic that Secretary Cardona would refuse to answer questions about the memo, considering credible reports claim that he helped solicit it.

Further emphasizing the necessity of parental rights, Representative Michelle Steel (R-CA) discussed the impact of COVID-19 on students and the need for parents to have more choice. Increasing access to public charter schools is one solution, given they vastly outperformed their traditional counterparts during the pandemic. Rep. Steel was so convincing in her argument that the Secretary committed to go visit a charter school campus, something he has not done in hundreds of school visits.

Finally, at one point in the hearing, Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) made a comment so divorced from reality that it summed up the whole day for the Democrats.

“So, it’s very frustrating for me to sit here as a lifelong educator to listen to Republicans, who do not have one former educator in their party on this Committee, talk about what we need to be doing in our schools and what we need to be doing when it comes to education,” said Rep. Bowman.

Curiously, as a former educator himself, Rep. Bowman failed to do his homework. Chairwoman Foxx, Representative Kevin Kiley (R-CA), and Representative Julia Letlow (R-LA) are all former educators.

Bottom Line: Committee Republicans put Secretary Cardona in the hot seat and will not quit pressing until we get answers for parents left in the dark, children put a generation behind, women athletes being discriminated against, and the American taxpayer left with the bill.

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