Federal Federal File

Minority Workers at the Ed. Dept.

By David J. Hoff — December 08, 2008 1 min read
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The number of high-level managers who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups is rising across much of the federal bureaucracy, but not at the Department of Education, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

Of the 66 people in the Senior Executive Service or other top nonpolitical executive positions at the Education Department in September 2007, 10 officials, or 15 percent, were members of minority groups, the GAO said in a Nov. 26 report.

By comparison, 13 of the 60 people, or 21 percent, in SES and other high-level Education Department positions on Oct. 1, 2000, were members of minorities, the GAO reported.

The Education Department and two others were the only ones out of 24 executive agencies where the proportion of minorities in upper-level career jobs decreased from 2000 to 2007, the GAO found.

“The improvements reported by GAO are good, but [federal employers] need to do more to create a truly diverse corps of senior executives and SES candidates,” Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawaii, said in a statement. “I am hopeful that the next Congress and administration will aggressively confront these remaining deficits.”

Sen. Akaka, who is the chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees government management, said he would introduce a bill in the upcoming Congress to ensure that more minority-group members are represented in high-level civil service jobs.

Since last year, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has appointed nine people to SES positions, and four of them are African-Americans, department spokesman Chad Colby said in an e-mail. That raises the proportion of minorities in such jobs to 19 percent, he said.

The department has increased the diversity of its workforce by recruiting minorities at lower levels, he said. That will result in more minority candidates for upper-level jobs in the future, he predicted.

Of the 6,555 workers in the SES late last year, 16 percent were minority-group members, up from 14 percent in 2000, the GAO said. Of 150,000 people in the SES developmental pool, 22.5 percent were members of minorities. That’s 4.5 percentage points more than in 2000.

A version of this article appeared in the December 10, 2008 edition of Education Week

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