AFT President Weingarten Blasts Trump and DeVos for Labor /Education Merger Proposal

June 28, 2018

Stephon Johnson, Amsterdam News

Something the Republicans have wanted to do since the Clinton administration might come to fruition under Trump. It’s made American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten furious.

According to a piece from The Wall Street Journal, the White House is recommending merging the Department of Education and the Department of Labor as part of a reorganization campaign.

The Department of Education currently employs approximately 3,900 people and the Department of Labor employs close to 15,000 people. The education department has already shrunk under Trump. White House officials have also expressed desire to move welfare and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to the Department of Health and Human Services and a restructuring of the U.S. Postal Service.

Weingarten criticized the Trump administration for considering this merger.

“In any normal administration, combining some of the core functions of the education and labor departments might make sense in terms of bringing together programs that educate children and prepare Americans for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” said Weingarten in a statement. “Having workforce development—also known as adult education—in one department, and K-12, career and technical education and college education in another, may not have made sense.”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said this plan is all part of a larger plan by Republicans to consolidate government.

“President Trump campaigned and won with his promise to reduce the federal footprint in education and to make the federal government more efficient and effective,” said DeVos in a statement. “Today’s bold reform proposal takes a big step toward fulfilling that promise. Artificial barriers between education and workforce programs have existed for far too long. We must reform our 20th century federal agencies to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

Congress would still have to sign off on the merger, but there’s a significant opposition, with Democrats and some Republicans rejecting the idea on its surface. On the social media website Twitter, former Obama-era Labor Secretary Chris Lu said, “If Trump were serious about making govt work better, he’d fill vacant positions with competent people, provide agencies with sufficient funding and stop denigrating federal employees. Otherwise, this proposal is like the rest of Trump’s agenda: just a lot of hot air.”

Weingarten believes that the desire to consolidate is more about unilateral power than anything else.

“But there is nothing normal about this administration, so we’re extremely skeptical of the motivations here, given how hostile Betsy DeVos and President Trump have been to public education, workers and unions,” stated Weingarten. “It seems like this move is just cover for continuing their agenda to go after public schools, gut civil rights and equity protections, provide support for predatory student loan companies and prey on workers. We strongly oppose this move, and Congress should reject it.”