Less than two weeks after Kevin Jennings left the U.S. Department of Education as assistant deputy secretary for safe and drug-free schools, officials there announced they are reshuffling the programs he oversaw in light of dramatic budget cuts.
The Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, which resided under the deputy secretary in the department's organizational chart, is being eliminated. That office, now funded at $191 million in the fiscal 2011 budget, saw its budget chopped by $79 million by Congress. Its programs (the ones that weren't cut, anyway), will be moved into a new Office of Safe and Healthy Students, to be located within the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. This takes the office down a rung on the organizational ladder.
Here's what Education Department Deputy Secretary Tony Miller said to staff on Monday:
As many of you know, Congress recently eliminated several programs administered by the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. Notwithstanding these budget cuts, the programs that remain are critical to our efforts to establish safe, supportive, and healthy schools so that children can learn and reach their full potential. Moreover, the department is committed to developing and deepening program and policy expertise in the program offices, especially in high-priority areas. Therefore, to maximize limited resources, while preserving our program focus, we are planning to move these programs into a new Office of Safe and Healthy Students within the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE). This change will provide new opportunities for staff from OESE and OSDFS to work together to improve school environments and support children's learning, health, and well-being. Arne met with OSDFS staff this morning to notify them of this change, to answer their questions, and to let them know that all OSDFS staff will be reassigned to OESE. The structure and staffing of the office will be determined in the coming months, and we will provide additional information as it becomes available. The department will work with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union to address workplace issues that may affect bargaining unit employees.