Flattening the U.S. Department of Education

DC Shuttle …

Administration Planning Education Department Reorganization. The Trump administration is proposing a major overhaul of the U.S. Education Department’s organizational structure, according to reports. The plan would eliminate or consolidate more than a half-dozen offices at the agency. The restructuring would affect nearly every major unit of the department, including K-12 education, higher education, communications and legislative affairs, as well as the agency’s budgeting and financial functions. The goal of the plan is to shrink the number of political appointees, reduce duplication and inefficiencies and create “clearer lines of reporting, responsibility and decision making.” In addition, the intention is to improve policy coordination across the department and allow “more focus on the Secretary’s priorities.” The proposal calls for merging the two offices that oversee postsecondary education and career and technical education into a single Office of Postsecondary and Lifelong Learning. The plan would eliminate the Office of the Undersecretary of Education. The plan calls for rolling the Office of Innovation and Improvement into the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. It also proposes the same for the Office of English Language Acquisition. The Office of the Deputy Secretary would be folded into the Office of the Secretary, though the plan proposes to keep the deputy secretary position. A new Office of Finance and Operations, to be led by an assistant secretary of education, would absorb the current Office of the Chief Financial Officer and “certain functions” of the Office of Management, Office of Deputy Secretary and Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development. In addition, the proposal would merge the department’s communications shop and its congressional affairs office into a new Office of Legislation and Public Affairs. The reorganization proposal is a response to President Donald Trump’s executive order in March 2017 directing agencies to develop a reorganization plan, as well as a subsequent White House order that agencies find ways to shrink their ranks and “maximize employee performance.” Some changes to the Education Department’s organizational structure “will require action by Congress,” according to the document. Department officials are working on a “plan for phased implementation” of the proposal.

President’s Budget on Education. The White House released its fiscal 2019 budget proposal. The Trump administration’s budget proposal would provide the Education Department with $63.2 billion in discretionary funding, a $3.6 billion or 5% decrease from fiscal 2017 enacted levels. School-choice initiatives are the biggest line item for the Trump administration in its fiscal 2018 budget. About $1.4 billion is split among three different proposals: $1 billion to states who make Title I funds portable, $250 million to research on voucher programs and a $167 million increase to charter schools.  The Department of Education released a statement on the budget request.

More Opposition to PROSPER Act. Dozens of higher education groups sent a letter to House leadership regarding the House GOP’s draft reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The letter highlights concerns and says that the PROSPER Act (H.R. 4508), which advanced out of committee last year, should “not be brought to the floor for a vote until substantive changes are made to address these problems.” The letter cites a recent Congressional Budget Office report that estimated the bill would cut mandatory federal spending on student aid by $14.6 billion over the next decade.

FCC Commissioner Endorses Apprenticeship Bill. Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr was in Mississippi with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MI) to discuss workforce development and training in the telecom and tech sectors at a roundtable at Jackson State University. Carr, who has focused on job creation, voiced support for Wicker’s Apprenticeship Enhancement Act (S. 1841), which is meant to make it easier for employers to create apprenticeship programs, Mississippi News Now reports.

School Shooting Response. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said that Congress should hold hearings on school shootings, following the mass shooting at a Florida high school this week. Trump said making schools safer is “top priority” and visited shooting victims in a Florida hospital, the Hill reported.

Senator Calls for Personal Higher Education Stories. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who is the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, announced that she was soliciting personal stories from “current, former and future students and their families about what they think Congress should tackle when it comes to higher education.” Her office will accept stories by email at HigherEdStories2018@help.senate.gov through Feb. 23.

We publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington collected by the New England Council, of which NEBHE is a member. This edition is drawn from the Higher Education Update in the Council’s Weekly Washington Report of Feb. 20, 2018. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.



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