Top education official resigns before Congress hearing

By MARIA DANILOVA Markets Associated Press

A senior Education Department official in charge of managing federal student aid has resigned ahead of a House hearing, the government said Wednesday.

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James Runcie submitted his resignation late Tuesday, the Education Department said in a statement.

Runcie was chief operating officer for federal student aid and an Obama administration holdover. He had been scheduled to testify at a congressional hearing Thursday. The hearing was going to focus on payment irregularities within the financial aid program.

Runcie said in a statement that he was resigning because he was not seeing eye to eye with his new bosses.

"Successfully leading and managing a large, complex organization in the public sector requires alignment on governance and mission between operational leaders and political ones," Runcie said. "Simply put, I submitted my resignation late yesterday because that alignment no longer exists."

Education Department Press Secretary Liz Hill said the office overseen by Runcie had "a litany of unsolved problems going back years."

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"The fact of the matter is that Congress requested Mr. Runcie to testify and Mr. Runcie refused to appear," Hill said.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, says it was disappointing that "Runcie would rather resign than testify." He says under Runcie's leadership at the department, "federal student aid systems are less secure, performance has suffered and improper payments have increased.

Runcie's resignation comes as the Trump administration is proposing reductions in federal financial aid programs in its 2018 budget.