Statement from Andy Van Kleunen on White House proposal to merge Departments of Labor and Education

June 22, 2018

Good goals are often used to sell bad ideas. Providing more Americans with the skills and education they need to survive in today’s economy is an obviously good goal with wide bi-partisan support. Let’s not confuse that goal with the very bad—and politically extreme—idea of merging the Departments of Labor and Education, which has little chance of adoption by even this Republican-led Congress. That Congress has thankfully rejected multiple prior attempts by OMB to drastically cut or eliminate workforce training programs, and it will hopefully see this latest proposal as yet another attempt by Mick Mulvaney to do the same.

The Trump administration has many other more viable options available to prepare more people for skilled jobs. There’s bipartisan support for a range of ideas that the White House has endorsed in other contexts, including investing in apprenticeships, extending Pell grants to people who want to earn short-term, occupational credentials, and making sure our federal investments in education and training are aligned with what people and businesses actually need. 

To date, OMB has not been on the same page on investing in some of these workforce goals. If we wanted to eliminate an agency that stands in the way of preparing more Americans for today’s jobs, maybe we should start there.

The strategy to merge the Departments of Education and Labor won’t do anything to get people or businesses the skills they need in this economy. The proposal to shift SNAP to the Department of Health and Human Services is also flawed. In fact, the proposal would undermine bipartisan progress Congress has made on the very issue this proposal purports to solve.

We hope Congress will continue to ignore these kinds of flawed and unworkable proposals, and instead will focus on some of the strategies that America’s workers and businesses have already called for to help them compete in today’s global economy.