- The Trump administration announced Thursday a proposal to merge the Departments of Education and Labor into one called the Department of Education and the Workforce. The combined department would oversee education, skill development, workplace protection and retirement security and address the skills shortage facing many industries, according to the proposal.
- It would merge all functions of the two departments and the 40-plus workforce development programs that span 15 agencies to theoretically create more alignment between the education-to-career pipeline.
- Under the proposal, four subdivisions would be created: K-12, higher education/workforce development, enforcement and research/evaluation/administration.
Experts predict there will be significant opposition from Congress on any proposal to merge agencies. House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC) has been marginally supportive of the idea, while her Democratic counterpart, Bobby Scott (D-VA), is vehemently opposed. On the Senate side, former U.S. education secretary and chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Lamar Alexander (R-TN), is withholding judgment at this time. An effort by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s to eliminate the Ed Department failed.
But as national leaders shift the way they view the purpose of education, it could make sense to find ways to at least promote greater collaborations between the agencies. In recent years, there has been an emphasis on college and career readiness as the metric of success for K-12 schools, and success for higher education institutions has been tied to job outcomes of the institutions' graduates.
Backwards mapping — the idea of starting with workforce goals and objectives and mapping curricula backwards based on those targets — has become more popular, and there is increased recognition that the sectors need to collaborate more to boost student success and fill vacant jobs.