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REPORT: White House to Propose Departments of Labor and Education Merger

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Capitol Hill, March 2018 (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The White House is set to propose a merger between the Labor and Education departments as one part of a broader government reorganization plan, Politico reported late Wednesday.

The plan, which requires the approval of Congress, is expected to be announced Thursday morning. A streamlining of the executive branch has been a longstanding conservative goal, but it’s not clear that this Republican controlled Congress has the political will to pull it off.

The Education Department, one of the government’s smallest agencies with just 3,900 employees, has shrunk by ten percent since President Trump took office due to a department wide hiring freeze implemented by Education secretary Betsy DeVos. The Labor Department has 15,000 employees, roughly half of whom work in some area of enforcement, overseeing workplace safety and rights issues.

While much of the mechanics behind the merger remain unknnown, a proposal drafted in September and obtained by Politico, suggested moving Labor Department officials overseeing employment for the disabled and youth workforce training to the Education Department offices.

Republican lawmakers proposed a merger between the two agencies during the Clinton administration. The new agency, which was to be called the Department of Education and Employment, was expected to have an annual budget of $7 billion and employ 25,000 people.

Skeptics of the plan question the scale of its fiscal benefits. Seth Harris, deputy labor secretary during President Barack Obama’s administration, told the Wall Street Journal it was a “solution in search of a problem.”

“There won’t be savings if the new department has the same mandates and programs the two need to carry out,” Harris said, pointing out that only one division within the labor Department — Employment and Training — overlaps substantially with Education.

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