Department of Education Truant in Disclosing Special Interests Influencing Its Leadership

Department of Education Truant in Disclosing Special Interests Influencing Its Leadership

  • May 19, 2022

PPT files transparency lawsuit to uncover former employers and other groups communicating with ED officials

Today, federal watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust announced a transparency lawsuit against the Department of Education (ED) for records that could reveal special interest groups attempting to influence Department leadership.

News reports last year indicated that teachers’ unions had unprecedented input in the development of school closure/reopening guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control. These same unions are active participants in political and advocacy campaigns. Members of Department leadership include former employees of these unions as well as other powerful special interest groups that have been active in attempts to influence ED policy.

Last fall, PPT submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking the communications between members of the Department’s political leadership and their former employers and other special interest groups PPT identified in the request. This request was one of a number of similar FOIA submissions to a variety of agencies. In December ED indicated it would see if it could provide more information about when it might fulfill the request. The Department failed to do so at that time, nor has it offered any response or additional information on this request this year.

“It’s no secret that teachers’ unions are among the most powerful political organizations in the country. That paid off last year when they were able to shape the CDC’s return to school guidance, a fact revealed only through Freedom of Information Act requests,” stated Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “These and other special interest groups not only have a stake in policy coming out of the Department of Education but have provided leadership at ED from the ranks of their former employees. It is important for ED to assure the American public that all of their political leadership are acting consistently with their ethics obligations as well as disclose the influential special interests they have been meeting with and what they have been discussing.”