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Education Department to Congress: We Need More Staff in Fiscal 2017

CORRECTION: A headline on the original version of this post attributes the U.S. Department of Education's request for increased staffing to the Every Student Succeeds Act. Although the department's budget request mentions ESSA in discussing the Education Department's workload, the department says that none of the new staffing requests deal specifically with the new law. 

The Every Student Succeeds Act includes language calling for the U.S. Department of Education to reduce the number of full-time equivalent staff associated with the 50-odd programs that the law consolidates or eliminates. 

So how did President Barack Obama respond to this portion of ESSA in his fiscal 2017 request for the Education Department? If he gets his way, the number of positions will actually go up.

Here's the chart, from page 75 of the president's budget request for the department, showing the increase Obama would like, under the "Full-time equivalent employment (FTE)" heading:

Thumbnail image for ObamaFY17Request.PNG

The increase in positions from 4,269 to 4,538 would represent a 6.3 percent hike, if approved, from expected levels in fiscal 2016 (which isn't over yet) to the proposed fiscal 2017 budget. And as you can see, the department also wants an increase of $156 million for departmental management costs, or a 7.2 percent increase from fiscal 2016.

Keep in mind this increase includes some new positions that deal with programs outside of the K-12 realm, such as student aid administration. More broadly, also remember that the prospects for Obama's proposed budget in the GOP-controlled Congress are relatively dim.

But in any case, why does the department say it needs more staff? As you might expect, one big reason the department cites is the new federal education law Obama signed just over two months ago.

"[T]he reauthorization of the ESEA by the Every Student Succeeds Act will significantly increase demands on the Department to establish rules, develop and disseminate program guidance, and provide substantial technical assistance to SEAs and LEAs to ensure a smooth transition to and implementation of the new statute," the department's budget request says.

The request also cites a sharp uptick in the number of civil rights complaints filed with the department, and a greater focus on the collection and use of data, as well as a high priority on security for data systems.

From 2005 to 2015, the department also notes in it request, the number of its full-time equivalent positions dropped by 6 percent. 

When the department made its budget pitch for fiscal 2016, it also sought an increase for both its departmental management budget and its total full-time equivalent positions, as my co-blogger Alyson Klein wrote last June. 

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