Trump administration proposes merging education and labor departments
- The Trump administration has proposed a merger of the Departments of Labor and Education, among other plans to consolidate the federal government, the White House announced to a cabinet meeting Thursday night. The combined entity would be known as the Department of Education and the Workforce, The Washington Post reported.
- Few details are out as to what such a merger would look like. Congress must approve all government agency closures, and pushback is likely, Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said to press during the cabinet meeting, according to The New York Times.
- U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos came out in strong support of the plan, saying in a statement that "artificial barriers between education and workforce programs have existed for far too long." No statement or comment from Labor Secretary Alex Acosta was immediately available.
One possible outcome of the merger could be to establish a school-to-work pipeline to prepare students for future jobs through education and training. But no reports, so far, have addressed how the combination would address enforcement of the rules that pertain to employers and workplaces.
Notably, the current DOL has spoken a great deal about the importance of apprenticeships and other workforce development programs, such as license streamlining. The agency has also softened its stance somewhat on a number of enforcement rules.
The department has taken pro-employer positions in the last two years, including the launch of Payroll Audit Independent Determination (PAID) program, which encourages employers to audit and self-report any Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violations they find. It also reinstated opinion letters, which had previously been replaced by Administrator Interpretations (AIs) during the Obama administration. AIs were used to issue broad guidance, compared to the limited scope of opinion letters, but employer groups preferred the opinion letters as they can serve as a partial defense for employers who rely on them in good faith.
What the mission and work of DOL would look like under a combined agency remains to be seen, including the future of both new initiatives and longstanding agency priorities carried out by the various subagencies that have direct impacts on employers and workplaces.
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