Senate Republicans want answers from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on what exactly his department is doing to help carry out the new health law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
In a letter sent to the secretary on Tuesday, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, and 17 other Republicans press Mr. Duncan for details on a number of questions, including how much money the Department of Education is spending on putting the controversial law into effect.
The letter questions whether the department has the authority to help enact the law, and whether it has received money from or is coordinating with the Department of Health and Human Services.
"While we understand that the effects of the president's health-care law will be felt by parents, teachers, and their families, we are unfamiliar with how the Department of Education's involvement in implementation will further the mission of educating our nation's students," the letter reads.
The letter comes after Mr. Duncan said in an interview with Politico in June that employees at the department had been helping "more on the margins" with putting the 2010 law into effect.
Mr. Duncan said in the interview that the department had helped send out information about the law to schools and colleges, but had done no more than that.
Cameron French, a spokesman for the Department of Education, said in an e-mail on Tuesday that the department was not providing technical assistance on putting the law into effect, an effort that is being led by the Department of Health and Human Services. Instead, he said, the Education Department was providing information to uninsured secondary and postsecondary students about preventive care.
"Among the most important provisions for families and students," he said, "is access to preventative care that will result in students' spending more time in the classroom learning and less time outside of class recovering from preventable illnesses."