Federal Agency Shuffle
On June 21, 2018 the White House unveiled a proposal to reform and reorganize various federal agencies. The Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century report proposed merging the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education into one new agency, the U.S. Department of Education and Workforce, or the DEW.
The proposal is result of the directive from Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to identify and streamline duplicative federal offices and programs.
“They’re [U.S. departments of Labor and Education] doing the same thing, Mulvaney stated during the announcement. “They’re trying to get people ready for the workforce—sometimes it’s education, sometimes it’s vocational training—but all doing the same thing, so why not put them in the same place?”
The proposal would create four subagencies within the U.S. DEW including, K-12; the American Workforce and Higher Education Administration; Enforcement Agency; and the Research, Evaluation, and Administration Agency.
The K-12 agency would focus on supporting state and local educational agencies to improve the performance and achievement of students in preschool, elementary and secondary school. The agency would administer the offices of Elementary and Secondary Education, Innovation and Improvement, English Language Acquisition, and Special Education.
The American Workforce and Higher Education Administration will be comprised of workforce development and vocational programs, rehabilitation, and higher education programs. The agency would administer the Adult and Youth Workforce Development program, Career and Technical Education, Disability Employment, Apprenticeship and Impact Fund, Unemployment Insurance, Trade Adjustment Assistance, and others. The proposal would streamline over 40 federal workforce programs at 15 agencies to 16 programs.
“We don’t even know how many job training programs we have,” Mulvaney said during the announcement. “Some say 40, some think 46, some people say 47. We get it down to 16 programs and we put it all in one place.”
The Enforcement Agency would include worker protection agencies that are responsible for enforcing employee statutes related to workers’ pay, benefits, safety and other protections. The agency would include the Office of Civil Rights, which is responsible for ensuring equal access to education.
Finally, the Research, Evaluation, and Administration Agency would streamline policy, research and administrative roles such as IT, procurement and budgeting. The agency will also administer the Student Aid Administration, Institute of Education Sciences and Office of the Inspector General.
The proposal aims to reduce bureaucracy and duplicative programs, better integrate education and workforce programs, reduce costs, and make it easier for states and local governments to administer programs to support their workforce. However, the details of how the programs will be merged or changed is yet to be announced, including if any state grant programs will get cut or reduced. Without those details it’s difficult to get a concrete assessment of the potential impact to state and local governments.
“While I see the value in promoting quality, targeting assistance to key populations and developing more cohesive coordination between technical education programs, I am concerned that by bringing together a collection of contrasting programs the likely outcome will be devaluing the quality of those programs,” said New Jersey state Sen. Troy Singleton and co-chair of CSG’s Education and Workforce Development Committee.
The proposal would need to be approved by Congress, making the chances of any actions before the mid-term elections a difficult task.