The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has been rewarded for its hard work eroding the free speech and due process rights of university students accused of sexual assault: the omnibus spending bill that passed Congress earlier today includes a 7 percent budget increase for the agency.
OCR is charged with ensuring that universities are in compliance with Title IX, the provision of federal education law mandating gender equity. But Catherine Lhamon, President Obama’s assistant secretary of OCR, has interpreted her mandate very broadly—issuing guidance to universities that they must adjudicate sexual assault themselves and could lose federal funding if they don’t tilt the proceedings in favor of accusers.
Some Republican Congressional leaders are perfectly aware that OCR has effectively become a rogue agency. Sen. Lamar Alexander has confronted OCR bureaucrats and accused them of subjecting schools to regulations that were never approved by the legislature, “circumventing principles of transparency and accountability,” he said, according to The College Fix.
The question, then, is this: Why would a Republican-controlled Congress opt to increase OCR’s budget? Writes Paul Mirengoff at Powerline, “Why is a Republican Congress about to reward OCR for not following the law?”
This outfit does all it can to impose the left’s agenda at the K-12 and college levels. In doing so, it often ignores the law, defining perfectly legal conduct as unlawful.
If the OCR’s resources are stretched thin, it’s because of the Office’s overreach, based on a willful misreading of the law. By increasing OCR’s budget, Congress rewards its misconduct. The budget should be slashed, not increased.
OCR maintains that it needs more funding in order to complete is current investigations of colleges. But the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Hans Bader—a former OCR attorney—argues that additional funding will merely incentivize the agency to launch even more witch hunts:
A government official with inside knowledge says that this increase was included after a “couple Democratic Senators recently circulated a Dear Colleague Letter asking for a $6 million budget increase for the OCR, so they could complete their Title IX investigations in a more timely manner.”
But this budget increase will not reduce the number of incomplete investigations, but rather increase them over the long run. OCR just uses budget increases to make up new legal obligations for colleges out of thin air, and find violations based on conduct previously deemed legal. That it turn leads to even more open, incomplete investigations.
Expect to see more of the same from OCR in the coming year—particularly if Republicans refuse to rein in the agency.
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