GOP chairman: New details on GAO report ‘deeply troubling’

Rep. John Kline, the GOP chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, says new details reported by The Daily Caller about the GAO’s error-ridden report on for-profit colleges are “deeply troubling” and put the report’s findings in question.

“The details surrounding this report are deeply troubling and certainly challenge the credibility of its findings,” Kline told TheDC.

Kline is seizing on the “troubling” details to push back against a pending Education Department regulation on for-profit schools. “This is yet another reason the administration should cease their attack on propriety schools and work with Congress on reforms that will protect all students,” he said.

GAO issued a slew of corrections in November to an undercover investigation into for-profit colleges requested by Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, who had unveiled the report at a hearing highly critical of the schools Aug. 4.

An internal GAO email obtained by The Daily Caller, a self-evaluation on what went wrong from a member of the team who wrote the report, suggests GAO was under the gun.

The email says GAO was put under “extreme short time frames” by Harkin to issue the report and “congressional staffers” demanded the inclusion of numerous details as it was being finalized.

“It certainly discredits the report, doesn’t it?” said Rep. Rob Andrews, New Jersey Democrat and long-time advocate for the for-profit schools, “The fact that they felt pressure to finish this on time is disquieting.”

Sources close to the issue have long said Harkin’s influence on the report was key, but the official GAO report on what happened apparently whitewashed the issue. That report was not released to the public.

The report was “an anomaly due to its extreme short time frames,” the email says, adding that the deadline for the report was “not flexible.”

“The team’s unwillingness to say no to the additional insertion of details at the end of a job created some of our most obvious inaccuracies,” the email says, citing internal pressure at GAO for the inclusion of these “details” as well as from “stakeholders” and “congressional staffers.”

The report was crucial because it helped the push for strict new regulations at the Department of Education on the for-profit colleges. The most controversial part of the regulations, called gainful employment, is pending at the White House Office of Management and Budget.