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Hearing Recap: Secretary Cardona Edition

Today, Secretary Miguel Cardona appeared before the Committee to defend the Biden administration’s FY 2025 budget request and account for the Department’s failure to receive a “clean” financial audit in FY 2023—as well as his legacy. 
The hearing marked the fourth annual oversight hearing of the Biden Department of Education (Department). Attempts by Secretary Cardona to cast the Department in a positive light fell short, as the state of American education has never looked so precarious.

Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) led with a stern characterization of Secretary Cardona’s tenure, declaring, “You have presided over the greatest decline of educational attainment and institutional legitimacy in the history of our nation.”

She then added grades for Secretary Cardona’s role overseeing K-12 education policy, postsecondary education policy, and the overall governance of the Department. To no surprise, he failed all three.

Turning to Q&A, antisemitic campus riots were top of mind for many Members. Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-CA) pursued a line of questioning about the Department’s commitment to fighting antisemitism, with specific emphasis on certain universities that have caved to “campus protest” demands.

Rep. Kiley led by asking, “We’ve seen some universities talk about ending study abroad programs to Israel, do you think that’s appropriate?”

“Our Title VI regulations make it very clear and if you go to our website…” slowly responded Secretary Cardona.

“I’m not asking about your website,” interjected Rep. Kiley, adding, “How about demands to cut ties with Hillel? Do you condemn those demands?”

“There is guidance there for universities where a lot of the questions that you are asking makes it very clear…” trailed off Secretary Cardona, again referring Rep. Kiley to the Department website instead of answering the question.

“Calls for universities to cut ties with Hillel, is that abhorrent, to use your word?” stressed Rep. Kiley, attempting to get a straight answer for a third and final time.

“Violence toward students, antisemitism on campus which we’ve seen…” the Secretary dithered. Three softballs, three strikes.

Next, Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL) criticized the Department’s Title IX rule, stating, “The Title IX Rule and the guidance that you are putting out, that you have been putting out for years, is taking away the safety of our daughters in their private spaces, in their locker rooms, in their showers.”

Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT) piled on, asking whether the Secretary would force his daughter to use the same locker rooms as biological men or fight a man in a boxing match. In response to both questions, Secretary Cardona quickly changed the subject.

Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA) raised concerns with the Department’s disregard for combating foreign influence on American universities. She noted that Section 117, the disclosure provision for foreign gifts, was not mentioned once in the Secretary’s written testimony and asked, “Since taking office, why have you not launched a single Section 117 investigation?”

Secretary Cardona deflected, instead claiming he was taking the issue “seriously.”

Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) highlighted that the Department has failed two financial audits for the first time in two decades, contrasting the Department’s accountability with that of other private financial institutions. In a verbal gaff, Secretary Cardona said, “We’re not being treated like other banks.”

Mr. Secretary, you’re right—if you were treated like other banks you’d be out of business.

Finally, Committee Republicans and Democrats unified against the Department’s botched FAFSA rollout this year. Both sides of the aisle shared their constituent’s grievances with the application process.

Delegate Gregorio Sablan (D-MP), the Democrat delegate from the Northern Mariana Islands, chastised the Secretary for how the Department still does not have a working FAFSA for all students. Mr. Sablan stated, “Your department was notified in January and today, four months, the issue remains……It’s 100 percent in my district. No student can complete the FAFSA.”

Moreover, those who could access the application did not fare much better. The application was plagued with delays, long wait times, and inaccurate recordkeeping, leaving many prospective college students in limbo. The Department continually ignored the shocking statistic that over one third of schools still have not sent out a single financial aid offer thanks to the Department.

It is obvious the Department’s failure to implement FAFSA was the result of mismatched priorities. Rep. Erin Houchin (R-IN) highlighted this key difference with two questions. 
“Were you given a congressional directive, by law, to bail out student loans? Yes, or no?” asked Rep. Houchin. The answer was “no.”

“Were you given a congressional directive, by law, to simplify FAFSA?” asked Rep. Houchin. The answer was “yes.”

Ultimately, those two questions are the keys that unlock everything wrong with Secretary Cardona’s time heading the Department. Too many resources are being expended pursuing baseless, ideological goals, such as student loan bailouts, instead of handling the meat and potatoes issues that American families care about, such as ensuring their children have the choice to enroll in college.

Bottom Line: Secretary Cardona’s report card is here, and it’s not getting hung on the fridge. 
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