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Ed. Dept. Morale Plummets Under Betsy DeVos, Report Finds

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The U.S. Department of Education ranks dead last among 27 mid-size federal agencies when it comes to employee job satisfaction, according to a new report that ranks "the best places to work" in the federal government

Overall, job satisfaction at the U.S. Department of Education has plummeted from an "engagement" score of 59.7 in 2017—the year DeVos took office—to 47.3 in 2018.

That 12.4-point drop is the biggest for the Education Department since at least 2003, and one of the biggest among mid-size federal government agencies in the past year. The only other large or mid-size agencies that have seen bigger declines are the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which saw a 25.2-point drop in its score, and the National Labor Relations Board, which posted a 12.6-point decline.

Among small agencies, only the Federal Labor Relations Authority and the Export-Import Bank saw bigger drops in engagement than the Education Department. 

By contrast, job satisfaction at the agency generally ticked up during the Obama years, from a score of 56.4 in 2009 to a high of 61.3 in 2015. Satisfaction dipped a bit in 2016, the final year of the Obama administration, to 59.8. The department however, has historically been ranked as one of the worst places in the federal government to work, no matter who is in charge. 

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The new study was released by the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. Its findings dovetail with those of a report administered by the Office of Personnel Management earlier this year, which also found that morale had slipped at the Education Department. Only 61 percent of employees felt the agency was successfully completing its mission in 2018, compared to 73.2 in 2016, before the Trump team took office.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has clashed with the American Federation of Government Employees, the union representing the department's staff, over telework and more. The Trump administration has also sought to significantly reorganize the department, and to merge it with the U.S. Department of Labor. 

"The secretary challenged department leaders to rethink the way the Department of Education operates so that we can better serve students and use taxpayer funds more wisely," said Elizabeth Hill, a DeVos spokeswoman.

"That has required a lot of change over the last year, which can be difficult for some. The changes we've undertaken already, and will continue to make into next year, will ultimately lead to the department becoming more efficient, effective, and accountable -- which makes it a better place to work."

Photo: Swikar Patel for Education Week

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