September 25, 2014

Robert Shireman’s Continuing Efforts To Influence Education Policy

By Anne Weismann

EducationRobert Shireman, former Deputy Undersecretary of Education, left the government under a cloud, and still faces an Inspector General investigation into whether he violated ethics laws by discussing sensitive government information about a pending and hotly contested negotiated rulemaking proceeding with an outside organization he founded, The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), and for which he served as president just prior to his tenure at Education. Other questions have emerged about the terms of a sweetheart deal Mr. Shireman made with Education to stay on as a paid advisor while still retaining all of his federal benefits. Mr. Shireman has now returned to the non-profit sector as the executive director of California Competes, but Education documents recently disclosed to CREW in response to a Freedom of Information Act request reveal that Shireman and TICAS are continuing their efforts to influence Education policy.

CREW’s FOIA request sought, in part, records from January 1, 2013 through the present related to Mr. Shireman and TICAS. Many of the hundreds of responsive documents Education provided are heavily redacted. But there are more than 80 pages of emails sent to, from, or including Mr. Shireman and Education officials. They suggest Education officials have – appropriately – become more cautious in their dealings with Mr. Shireman. In response to one request by Mr. Shireman for information, an Education official noted she could not give it out without a FOIA request. Mr. Shireman pushed back, apparently not used to having his requests for inside information from Education turned down.

Hundreds of other emails reveal TICAS officials are continuing to weigh in on Education policy, most recently on the Pell Grant and student loan programs, and to push for advance notice of when data will be publicly disclosed. Apparently TICAS continues to believe even without Mr. Shireman at the helm at Education, it has an inside track.

All of this may just be how Washington works, with an ever-present revolving door. But the fact that Education’s Inspector General continues to probe Mr. Shireman’s contacts with outside groups while at the agency, contacts that appear to have involved the sharing of confidential government information, provides reason for optimism that in the end, Mr. Shireman will be held accountable for his actions.

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