Beware of work-study programs disguised as political activities: GOP attorneys general letter to DOE

Apr 2, 2024 | Politics | 0 comments

FIRST ON FOX: The attorneys general of West Virginia and Indiana led a coalition of 16 states in sending a letter Tuesday to the Department of Education, warning that the agency’s recent guidance on work study funding may violate existing federal law.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita took aim at a “Dear Colleague” memorandum penned in late February by Assistant Education Secretary Nasser Paydar. In the document, Paydar informed universities and colleges that federal work study funds may be used for employment by public agencies for “civic engagement work that is not associated with a particular interest or group.”

The attorneys general expressed concern at the guidance’s advisement that such civic engagement work may include “broad-based get-out-the-vote activities, voter registration, providing voter assistance at a polling place or via voter hotline, or poll worker service.” They noted Congress designed the federal work study program to support community service activities for student-workers.

“Your guidance effectively licenses colleges and universities to subsidize this activity – and potentially swing elections by choosing where to direct these funds – with taxpayer money,” the letter reads. “That approach violates limitations imposed by law.”

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It goes on to say that U.S. taxpayers shouldn’t have to “foot the bill for anyone’s political activity, regardless of who benefits.”

Morrisey, Rokita and the other signatories further pointed to Education Department policy which states that student work is not in the public interest if it involves any partisan or nonpartisan political activity. They claimed Paydar’s memo forgets those limits by allowing support for a wide range of voter registration services, which the attorneys general said are both political and often the most valuable political activities in which a party or candidate can engage.

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Their letter continued, arguing that the Education Department’s guidance fails to install proper guardrails to protect the program from abuse. For example, it doesn’t supply instructions on regulating voter registration activities aimed at boosting a particular party in a particular jurisdiction.

“Decisions about which neighborhoods and precincts to work can pay big dividends in November,” they wrote.

And the letter concluded by suggesting the Education Department’s guidance is part of a broader effort to use public initiatives to enlist favored voters. The officials urged the agency to recognize that “parties and candidates are supposed to work and fund their own election efforts.”

“The Work-Study Program helps a lot of students, but this new guidance appears politically motivated and has the potential to be weaponized,” Morrisey told Fox News Digital in a statement. “The Biden administration can’t be allowed to pay college students with public dollars to deliver new voters to the Democrats. The law says that’s wrong. Voters say that’s wrong. Common sense says that’s wrong.”

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In addition to Morrisey and Rokita, the attorneys general from Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Utah joined in signing it.

The Department of Education did not answer multiple inquiries seeking comment for this story. 

FIRST ON FOX: West Virginia and Indiana are warning the Biden administration that recent work study guidance allowing federal support for voter registration may violate the law.[#item_full_content]

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