James Runcie, the Education Department official in charge of the federal government’s $1.4 trillion financial aid program abruptly resigned yesterday, just one day before Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wouldw be testifying on President Donald Trump’s proposed budget. Trump’s proposed budget cuts the Education Department’s budget by more than 13 percent, or by almost $11 billion.
The resignation is apparently due to a dispute with DeVos. As Politico is reporting, Runcie, “submitted his resignation to the department last night,” effective immediately, the Office of Federal Student Aid said in a news release. Runcie had been slated to testify on Thursday before the House Oversight Committee regarding the department’s rising improper payment rate for federal student aid programs.
An Education Department official, who requested anonymity, said Runcie’s resignation came abruptly at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday after DeVos directed him to testify before the House oversight panel. The department official said Runcie also refused requests to testify made by the committee and Jim Manning, the department’s acting undersecretary.
Runcie’s name is included on a committee witness list for the hearing. The Education Department’sinspector general and the head of a group representing financial aid administrators are also slated to testify. A committee spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The department official said Runcie said he wasn’t the correct person to testify about the issue, but department leadership indicated they didn’t understand his reasoning and are baffled by his refusal to testify. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” the official said. “We don’t know.”According to a resignation memo obtained by Buzzfeed, Runcie wrote that “I cannot in good conscience continue to be accountable as Chief Operating officer given the risk associated with the current environment at the [Education] Department. I have been consistently on record and clear about not testifying at the upcoming hearing on improper payments. He added that he had “not heard a single compelling reason” the department would need him to testify.
Runcie also cited broader issues with DeVos claiming that her projects “divert critical resources” from the financial aid office. He said he was “encumbered” from “properly leading this great organization.”Runcie was appointed by Barack Obama – and thus the swamp appears to have drained itself in this case.