White House to Pitch Merging Education, Labor Departments

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By Ben Penn

The Trump administration later today will propose consolidating the Education and Labor departments into a single agency, an administration official told Bloomberg Law.

The White House Office of Management and Budget originally wanted to combine the agencies’ overlapping workforce development offices, but talks morphed into a full-scale merger, said the source. The new Cabinet agency, which would require congressional approval, would be titled the Department of Education and the Workforce.

The proposal would target a broad range of job training programs that the two agencies already team up to administer under the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which funds 33 job training programs across the country for adults, youth, and dislocated workers. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta has previously called on the DOL’s Employment and Training Administration to improve coordination with the Education Department in ensuring quality of these programs.

The administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the DOL’s enforcement operations would also be shifted to the new agency. That includes the Wage and Hour Administration, which enforces minimum wage and overtime law, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The news of the merger proposal was first reported by Education Week. Spokespeople for the OMB, DOL, and ED didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The proposal is a long shot in Congress. Lawmakers last year ignored the administration’s request to move the DOL Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“Rather than spending their energy proposing unrealistic, unhelpful, and futile reorganizations of the federal government just to have a new talking point, President Trump and Secretaries DeVos, Azar, and Acosta should start undoing some of the chaos and harm they have caused to children, students, workers, patients, and families across the country,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the Senate labor and education panel, said in a statement. “Democrats and Republicans in Congress have rejected President Trump’s proposals to drastically gut investments in education, health care, and workers—and he should expect the same result for this latest attempt to make government work worse for the people it serves.”

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