Federal

Several Ed. Dept. Offices Target of Reorganization

By Alyson Klein — February 27, 2018 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her team are moving to revamp the agency she’s overseen for just over a year, with a stated goal of making it more efficient, transparent, collaborative, and responsive to states, districts, and the general public.

The undertaking is part of a broader effort throughout the administration to reorganize government. Last year, President Donald Trump asked all Cabinet secretaries to take a hard look at their agencies and find places to streamline. A task force at the U.S. Department of Education has been working on that directive since last spring.

The plan represents DeVos’ long-range vision. Not all of it could be put into place right away. Some key pieces would require congressional approval, and the department is still figuring out which ones, a department official said, who requested anonymity because it is not his job to talk to reporters.

“It’s a vision statement as much as anything else,” the official said, noting that the legislation creating the department was passed in 1979. It doesn’t make sense, the official said, for the department to be operating in the 21st century using the “best thinking” of the late 1970s.

‘Do More With Less’

The plan calls for cutting down the number of political appointees at the department by about a third, from roughly 150 to 100, the official said.

“I think we owe it to public to do more with less,” the official said. The official noted that the number of career staffers has declined over time, thanks in part to the federal hiring freeze: “Political appointees have to share in that burden.”

It would also reduce the number of positions that require Senate confirmation, the official said. DeVos has complained that the chamber is dragging its feet in approving Trump’s nominees for key posts at her department. However, she’s not the first secretary to experience that problem.

The biggest proposed change for K-12: moving the office of innovation and improvement, which oversees programs dealing with charter schools and private schools among other responsibilities, into the office of elementary and secondary education, the main K-12 office. That change would not require congressional sign-off.

The idea is to infuse innovation throughout K-12 programs, not confine it to one part of the agency. The plan also calls for “eventually” shifting English-language acquisition into the broader elementary and secondary education office. The thinking behind that: English-language learners are an increasingly bigger slice of the overall K-12 population, so it makes sense that everyone working on K-12 programs would be focused on their needs.

The plan would also get rid of the undersecretary’s office. In past administrations, the undersecretary has been the No. 3 slot, in charge of postsecondary education programs.

It calls for combining the communications and outreach office with the congressional-affairs office, to create a broader office of legislation and congressional affairs. And it would merge the chief financial officer, and some responsibilities of the management office, the deputy secretary, and planning, evaluation, and policy development, into a new finance and operations office.

Moreover, the blueprint calls for integrating career, technical, and adult education as well as postsecondary education into a single office of postsecondary and lifelong learning. And it would fold the parts of the deputy secretary’s office into that of the secretary’s.

The president’s budget for fiscal 2019 calls for cutting the department’s nearly $70 billion budget by $3.6 billion, or 5.3 percent. But the official said the changes aren’t intended to conform with proposed spending cuts.

“We would be doing this whatever the budget says,” the official said.

Marshall Smith, who served in the U.S. Department of Education under five presidents from both parties, sees the proposal as a mixed bag.

He’s not sure it’s a smart move to merge the office of innovation with the office of elementary and secondary education, given that technology is driving so much change in both K-12 and higher education.

“This is an extraordinary period, they ought to have in that office an extraordinary person running it,” Smith said.

But he likes the idea of melding the offices that deal with post-secondary education and career and technical education. Both are relatively small offices, Smith said, and their missions are closely related.

And he thinks that cutting down on the number of political appointees is a smart move. Many political appointees don’t have the same expertise as career staffers and tend to have a high turnover, Smith said.

A version of this article appeared in the February 28, 2018 edition of Education Week as Several Ed. Dept. Offices Target of Reorganization

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal What Is a School Shooting? Members of Congress Seek a Federal Definition, Reliable Data
A new bill would direct federal departments to track data related to school shootings, a term for which there is no federal definition.
Daniela Altimari, Hartford Courant
4 min read
Police respond to the scene of a shooting at Heritage High School in Newport News, Va., on Saturday Sept. 20, 2021. Newport News police Chief Steve Drew said two students were shot and taken to the hospital and neither injury was thought to be life-threatening. The chief said authorities believe the suspect and victims knew one another but did not provide details.
Police respond to the scene of a shooting at Heritage High School in Newport News, Va., on Saturday Sept. 20, 2021.
John C. Clark/AP Photo
Federal Is the Justice Dept. Silencing Parents or Stepping Up to Protect Educators?
Merrick Garland's move to use the FBI to help protect school officials from violence and harassment has drawn anger and praise.
5 min read
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to examine Texas's abortion law, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to examine Texas's abortion law, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Tom Williams/Pool via AP
Federal Don't Use Federal COVID Aid to Undermine School Mask Rules, U.S. Treasury Tells Governor
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey violated the intent of COVID aid programs by using them to discourage school mask mandates, an agency letter says.
2 min read
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey speaks at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix on Nov. 30, 2020. A program announced by Arizona's Republican governor last month to give private school vouchers to students whose parents object to school mask requirements has seen a surge of applications, with twice as many either completed or started than can be funded with the $10 million in federal coronavirus relief cash he earmarked for the program.
A program announced by Arizona's Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in September earmarks federal money to give private school vouchers to students whose parents object to public school mask requirements.
Ross D. Franklin/AP
Federal Districts Would Have to Show Equity for High-Poverty Schools Under Proposed Biden Rule
The U.S. Department of Education says the move would promote transparency and accountability for schools getting COVID-19 aid.
4 min read
Illustration of a helping hand with dollar bill bridging economy gap during coronavirus pandemic, assisting business people to overcome financial difficulties.
Feodora Chiosea/iStock/Getty Images Plus