PRESS RELEASE: DFI-Led Coalition of Former Education Department Officials Calls on the Biden Administration to End Its “Politically Motivated Harassment” of Florida’s Governor, Legislature

December 14, 2022

WASHINGTON—Led by the Defense of Freedom Institute (DFI), a group of former U.S. Department of Education (ED) policy experts is calling on the Biden administration to end what it calls “politically motivated harassment” of Florida concerning the state’s recent efforts to improve student outcomes and educational programs in higher ed.  

This comes after the Biden administration released new ED “guidance” for colleges, universities, and accreditors that attacks Florida’s new accreditation reform, SB 7044, which seeks to end the accreditation monopoly and improve student outcomes and educational programs by requiring the state’s public higher education institutions to seek a new accreditor each accreditation cycle. 

In an open letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal, the coalition writes, “Florida has shaken up its postsecondary system by promoting accountability and competition in the accreditation process. This reform aims to improve student academic and career outcomes and is the prerogative of a sovereign state in our constitutional system. The Florida Legislature and Governor should be applauded, not harassed, for their willingness to innovate in this arena. The Department’s ill-advised and unlawful attempts to quash such innovation seem designed to have a ‘chilling effect’ on innovations that may follow in SB 7044’s footsteps, both in Florida and across the country.”

The coalition letter explains how the Biden Education Department’s response to Florida’s innovative reform in SB 7044 violates federal law and the Constitution, including the following:

  • ED’s guidance violates the Higher Education Act by requiring Florida’s public colleges and universities complying with SB 7044 to get ED pre-approval before seeking a new accreditor.
  • ED’s guidance coercing state-operated colleges and universities to carry out its preferred accreditation policies violates the Constitution’s federalism requirements, as well as the Department of Education Organization Act.
  • ED’s threat to withhold federal funding from colleges and universities complying with SB 7044 lacks statutory authority and violates the Constitution’s separation of powers requirements.
  • ED’s guidance ignores federal law requiring the Department to publish the new rules referenced in its guidance only after notice-and-comment rulemaking.

“The Biden Education Department simply doesn’t have the legal authority to stop reforms like SB 7044. Florida is a sovereign state within the American federal system, and the Constitution preserves for the states the authority to provide for the appropriate education of their residents. Even the Department’s organizing statute recognizes this,” said DFI President and Co-founder Bob Eitel. “The administration is oddly attempting to undermine the Education Department’s own regulations encouraging states to do exactly what Florida is doing: improve educational programs by breaking up the regional accreditation cartel.”

Eitel added, “Floridians would be a lot better served if the Biden administration instead worked with Florida officials to help improve academic and career outcomes for all students, rather than harassing its political and education leaders for innovations like SB 7044.”

To read the letter, click here.