President Donald Trump’s administration released plans for a comprehensive governmentwide reorganization that includes merging the departments of Labor and Education.
The reform plan also proposed consolidating parts of the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture into the Environmental Protection Agency, and merging the National Marine Fisheries Service with the Fish and Wildlife Service, to improve federal wildlife and fisheries policies.
The goal of the merge, which would create the Department of Education and the Workforce, is to prepare Americans for success in a “globally competitive world through family-sustaining careers.”
“(There are) undeniable connections between labor and education,” said Goldman School of Public Policy lecturer Steven Weissman. “The devil is in the details.”
Weissman noted that the government’s desired efficiency would come from cutting programs and funding within the combined department.
Merging departments would increase the government’s efficiency, according to Berkeley College Republicans President Matt Ronnau, specifically because downsizing the federal government would give state and local governments more power to organize labor and education laws as they see fit.
“I think Cal should be happy with the proposal, as the streamlining will mean that any needs that they have will be addressed and taken care of more quickly,” Ronnau said in a Facebook message. “Hopefully this shift will revert more power back to the States.”
While Ronnau pointed out that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said combining the two departments would make sense, an American Federation of Teachers press release said Weingarten and the federation strongly oppose the merge and have advised Congress to reject it.
ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay said in an email that she was concerned for the unique features of each department, which are specifically tailored toward serving their current constituents. These unique programs, she said in the email, could get lost in a merge.
Khalfay added that the UC and other universities should fight to keep the Department of Education separate so the department can continue providing existing resources, rather than risk losing or reducing certain programs.
“I would say that they should reiterate their commitment to an affordable and accessible education even if the federal government does not,” Khalfay said in the email.
The plan includes a breakdown of the merged department’s subagencies: K-12, higher education/workforce development, enforcement, and research/evaluation/administration. The merge would create a more strict education-to-career pipeline while also adding coherence within the worlds of workforce development and higher education, according to the White House’s proposal.
While the merge would link education to future careers more directly, UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education chair Ken Jacobs said the “small advantages” the plan provides are outweighed by the possible detractions from the public education system and from worker protection.
“(It’s a) terrible proposal,” Jacobs said. “(The) area of overlap is the technical function, (which is) small. … No good rationale for doing that.”