For months, ever since the U.S. Education Department began an aggressive push to change federal rules governing accreditation, higher education lobbyists have been urging members of Congress to rein the department in. Using the federal regulatory process to force accreditors to set minimum levels of acceptable performance by institutions on measures of how much their students learn, and to ensure that the institutions they oversee do not discriminate in their transfer policies against academic credits of students from nationally accredited institutions, exceeds the executive branch’s authority and tramples on Congress’s, college groups have argued.
Although lawmakers and Congressional aides in both parties sent Education Secretary Margaret Spellings an early warning last fall not to overstep her bounds in the process known as “negotiated rule making,” they have remained publicly silent on the regulatory process since then. But that silence was broken on the Senate floor late last week, when Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said he would introduce legislation that would prevent Spellings and the department from issuing final rules on accreditation until after Congress passes a bill to renew the Higher Education Act.
“The department is proposing to restrict autonomy, choice, and competition,” Alexander said in his Senate speech. “Such changes are so fundamental that only Congress should consider them. For that reason, if necessary, I will offer an amendment to the Higher Education Act to prohibit the department from issuing any final regulations on these issues until Congress acts. Congress needs to legislate first. Then the department can regulate.” . . .
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Republican Senator to Spellings: Back Off
Lamar Alexander has been a reliable water carrier for Spellings and the Bush assault on education, but now it appears that even Alexander has had enough. As this piece from Inside Higher Ed makes clear, the former UT President has put a shot close over ED's bow as a warning to back off of what amounts to an attempted federal takeover of higher ed accreditation: