Senate Democrats Ask DeVos to Explain Falwell’s Higher-Ed Task Force

Senate Democrats are asking Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, to enlighten them about a federal task force to be led by Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University.

In a letter released on Thursday, six Democratic senators, led by Patty Murray of Washington and Elizabeth A. Warren of Massachusetts, said they were “extremely concerned” by the lack of public explanation regarding the purview of the task force and Mr. Falwell’s potential conflicts of interest.

The Trump administration has not yet made an official announcement about the task force that Mr. Falwell told The Chronicle he had been chosen to lead.

“Obtaining the input of college and university leaders is certainly one part of any comprehensive review of federal policy,” the senators wrote, but even so, “it is critical to guard against conflicts of interest where they exist.”

In January, Mr. Falwell told The Washington Post that “there’s too much intrusion into the operation of universities and colleges,” and that the task force would deal primarily with deregulation.

That statement troubled the senators. “Unfortunately,” they wrote, “these policies have become all the more necessary after far too many institutions have not acted in the best interests of their students.”

“Mr. Falwell’s personal and financial interests on issues affecting student-loan debt, recruitment, and distance education are extensive, and his perspectives must be viewed appropriately in this context.”

The senators have asked Ms. DeVos to explain how she will “set forth the scope of the task force’s responsibilities” and maintain transparency. The letter requests a response by March 9.

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