President Trump has frequently talked about eliminating the U.S. Department of Education. Now, he proposes to merge it with the Department of Labor, citing the need for greater efficiency in government. Using that tactic, he seeks to achieve indirectly what he had wanted to do directly.
Trump’s plan points to an overlap in the area of job training as showing the need for the merger. Both Departments support this activity, but in quite different ways. In neither Department is this the agency’s primary function.
The two federal entities have quite different reasons for their existence. In short, the Department of Education focuses on improving schooling, while the Department of Labor concentrates on workplaces.
To be precise, the U.S. Department of Education by law is to ensure equal educational opportunity for every individual, improve the quality of education, encourage the involvement of parents and students, promote improvement using research, coordinate federal programs, improve the efficiency of federal activities, and increase accountability.
The Department of Labor by law is to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of wage earners of the United States, to improve their working conditions, and to advance their opportunities for profitable employment.
Not much overlap in purpose, is there? So, what is really going on here?
When I worked on Capitol Hill, the congressmen and congresswomen would say that they used a “smell test” to determine the real purpose of a proposal. This meant that they looked beyond the words used to justify an idea and considered such factors as the record of the proposing organization or individual.
Since President Trump took office a year and a half ago, these are some of his most noteworthy actions in the area of education:
Nominated the most unqualified person ever proposed for the office of U.S. Secretary of Education,
Proposed two budgets that substantially cut aid to education,
Proposed moving millions of dollars of federal aid to private schools from public schools which educate 90% of America’s students,
Eliminated guidance, notably that to help parents of children with disabilities understand the services available for their children,
Substantially reduced enforcement of federal civil rights laws,
Suspended a key safe-guard against post-secondary for-profit trade schools fraudulently mistreating students, and
Ignored the needs of students claiming they had already been defrauded by such schools by assigning only 14 staffers to work on more than 87,000 complaints.
Now does President Trump’s record of his first 18 months in office show him concerned about improving the efficiency of federal Department of Education? He wants to eliminate not to improve.
This merger is his opportunity to permanently reduce federal aid to improve elementary and secondary education and to restrict help to people to go to college. Why would students and parents want that?
Let’s get the smell out of the room and bring in fresh air. America’s students and teachers need our support, not the undermining of their efforts to have a better life.