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Education Dept. plans lavish Las Vegas conference as students lose services

Education Dept. plans lavish Las Vegas conference as students lose services

Sequestration is not having a deterrent effect on federal conferences in Las Vegas.

This week, the Department of Education announced it would be going forward with a three-day conference at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn calls the decision is inappropriate.

“At a time when the Administration is making the dubious claim that 1,172,000 students ‘will lose access to suport [sic] programs and special education,’ the Department should not be diverting resources to lavish conferences,” Coburn wrote in a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan Wednesday.

The conference is scheduled to take place in December to train “financial aid professionals.”

“The [Federal Student Aid] Training Conference offers premiere hands-on, face-to-face training for financial aid professionals throughout the financial aid community,” the announcement reads.

“This year’s conference program will focus on topics related to changes in Title IV policies and programs that affect your job and, more importantly, the students you serve,” it adds.

Coburn called on the department to cancel the conference and conduct a review on any upcoming conferences for the rest of the year. He further requested additional information on the cost of upcoming conferences and events.

The $2.5 billion budget reduction at the Department of Education under sequestration affects educational improvement, special education, technical education and some federal student aid programs.

“Effective management of sequestration is critical, and the Department should not be choosing Washington bureaucrats over funding for schools that serve low-income children,” Coburn wrote. One way to help “free up thousands in grant dollars for schools,” he said, would be to require some furlough days for 50 employees in the Office of Communications and Outreach with six-figure salaries.

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