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New Trump Executive Order Could Lead to a Smaller Education Department

President Donald Trump's proposed budget for education could lead to significant cuts to staff and various programs, sources have told us. But it's not the only action on the president's agenda that could shrink the U.S. Department of Education.

On Monday, Trump released a new executive order that directs each agency leader to submit "recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and to merge functions" to Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget. The recommendations, which agency head must submit to Mulvaney within 180 days, must consider the following factors, according to the text of the order:

  • Whether "some or all of the functions of an agency, a component, or a program are appropriate for the federal government or would be better left to state or local governments or to the private sector through free enterprise";
  • Whether "some or all of the functions of an agency, a component, or a program are redundant, including with those of another agency, component, or program"; 
  • Whether "certain administrative capabilities necessary for operating an agency, a component, or a program are redundant with those of another agency, component, or program"; 
  • Whether the "costs of continuing to operate an agency, a component, or a program are justified by the public benefits it provides"; and
  • "The costs of shutting down or merging agencies, components, or programs, including the costs of addressing the equities of affected agency staff."

On the campaign trail, Trump talked about either shutting down the Education Department or significantly slashing its budget. But we haven't heard any talk about closing the department since the administration took office, either from Trump, or his education secretary, Betsy DeVos. 

The executive order says this move is "intended to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the executive branch." Remember that these reports would be just recommendations and don't have the force of law. But they could shape White House and congressional priorities once fiscal 2018 budget negotiations get started in earnest. 

DeVos is essentially on the same page as Trump on this issue. Last month, she announced that she would look through the Education Department budget in order to identify unnecessary programs. DeVos is a long-time donor to GOP candidates and causes who has advocated for a limited federal government role. 


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