On Tuesday, Betsy DeVos, the Education Secretary, will present herself before a House panel in defense of the budget of her agency. The measures include a drastic overhaul of the Education Department, which has led to much tension between the Congress and the Education Department.
The Congress has perceived her proposed budget as “an illegal collective bargaining agreement” that goes against the budget office’s agenda of the White House. The House Appropriations Committee has been informed last week that Ms. DeVos has not been completely honest in the information her office held regarding its budget for this fiscal year. She will testify on Tuesday in front of the Committee, confirming her budget plan which involved 5 percent spending cut, the elimination of many programs and $1 billion pitch for school choice.
Ms. DeVos’ “Education Reform Plan” is suspected of emitting information behind some of the budget decisions and a career department official said in an email: “Our concern is about a breakdown in communication, a culture of secrecy and a fear of retaliatory action that has prevented Budget Service from providing House and Senate appropriators and staff, and for that matter, the public, with key information about the department’s plans for fiscal year 2019.”
This plan proposed by Ms. DeVos was in response to President Trump’s executive order last year that ordered the limitation on the reach of federal agencies and better efficiency in the agencies.
In defense of Ms. DeVos, Liz Hill, the Education Department spokeswoman, commented that the department did not withhold any information from the Congress intentionally and that “the deliberative reorganization document is just that – a deliberative document not in final form.” She said that the agency is simply following the protocols for department reorganization and that is being misunderstood.
Last month, the department proposed appointing a new budget director as well as reorganizing the budget office. This part of the proposal has met the most opposition and pushback from department employees and other officials. Andy Smarick, a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said: “Budget offices, because they have so much power and institutional knowledge, can be seen as obstacles by reform-minded government leaders.” He further commented: “Many new government officials this they’ll only have to fight policy battles, when in fact there are lots of ways, including in the budget process, for their efforts to get scuttled.”
The implementation of the plan will require Ms. DeVos to shrink her agency, an effort she has already initiated during her time. In fact, she has already dropped hundreds of regulations and staff to match the need for efficiency demanded by the executive order.
The plan not only incited suspicion from the Congress but also wariness and conflict with the union of the 3,900 employees of the department. The leaders have expressed discontent towards this cutting effort and pushed against the drastic overhaul, defending the employees’ rights and job security.
While Ms. Hill, the spokeswoman of the department, believes this agreement would allow the agency “to treat all employees and the American taxpayers fairly”, union leaders and officials believed that the agreement is depriving the employees of previously established benefits and negotiated provisions for pay increases and promotions, child care, work schedules and overtime. The plan is a blow in the guarantee of security and welfare for the employees of the department.
In order to strike back, the union leaders have emailed the congressional staffers to vouch for their needs, hoping to use the power of the Congress and the Committee to counter the proposal of Ms. DeVos.
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