Education Department faces FOIA lawsuit over alleged scheme to pay students for election activity

Education Department faces FOIA lawsuit over alleged scheme to pay students for election activity

  • March 13, 2024

Madeleine Hubbard, Just The News

The watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the Education Department for allegedly not responding to a Freedom of Information Act request for documents about the agency’s decision to allow federal work-study program funds to be used to pay students participating in election-related activities.

The watchdog filed the lawsuit after a year and a half after it first attempted to obtain documents from the Education Department about the work-study program, which provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need.

In April 2022, the Education Department said that federal work-study funds could not be used by any agency other than a post-secondary education “institution, for work involving partisan or nonpartisan political activity, including party-affiliated voter registration activities.”

Last month, however, the federal agency said that federal work-study funds “may be used for employment by a Federal, State, local, or Tribal public agency for civic engagement work that is not associated with a particular interest or group,” including “broad-based get-out-the-vote activities, voter registration, providing voter assistance at a polling place or through a voter hotline, or serving as a poll worker.”

The watchdog’s director, Michael Chamberlain, said the lack of response followed by a new decision is a “bad look” for the department.

“Trust in government is at an all-time low. If it’s going to be restored, citizens must be certain that the bureaucracy works for them, and not for political purposes,” he said.

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