Trump administration proposes consolidating departments of education and labor

The Trump Administration is proposing to consolidate the federal Education and Labor departments to “address the educational and skill needs of American students and workers in a coordinated way” and reduce duplication of efforts. Government overhaul proposals have traditionally been met with stiff Congressional opposition; the Trump proposal is considered unlikely to buck that trend. 

The proposal, released last week, would combine the agencies into a single Department of Education and the Workforce (DEW). Four sub agencies would address K-12 education, higher education and the workforce, enforcement, and research/evaluation/administration. The Administration says the two departments have some common goals for preparing Americans for success but operate in “silos” that have resulted in a “complicated web” of funding streams and confusion for students and workers. 

According to the Administration, “The K-12 agency would support state and local educational agencies to improve the achievement of preschool, elementary, and secondary school students, including students with disabilities, Native American students, and English language learners. The agency would comprise improved ED K-12 offices that would better integrate across K-12 programs and more effectively coordinate with higher education and workforce programs. The K-12 agency would administer activities currently implemented by the Offices of Elementary and Secondary Education, Innovation and Improvement, English Language Acquisition, and Special Education Programs.”  

The enforcement agency would include the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, which is responsible for ensuring equal access to education through enforcement of civil rights in the nation’s K-12 schools and higher education institutions. “In the new DEW, all of these agencies would report to one senior official to enhance the efficiency and coordination of enforcement and compliance assistance efforts,” the proposal states. 

The Research, Evaluation, and Administration agency would include “centralized offices focused on policy development, research, and evaluation, in addition to management-focused offices related to IT, procurement, financial management, and budgeting.” 

Congress for decades has rejected administration plans to overhaul or consolidate federal agencies out of reluctance to change the institution’s complicated web of appropriations, authority and oversight. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), said he is open to discussing changes in how the agencies work together. Widespread skepticism about the Administration’s support of public education means, however, that the proposal has drawn lukewarm support in Washington, D.C. 

KASB will continue to monitor the proposal. 

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