White House announces plan to merge Education and Labor departments

The White House announced a plan on Thursday to combine the Education and Labor departments to form the Department of Education and the Workforce.

The Office of Management and Budget said the proposal would "allow the Federal government to address the educational and skill needs of American students and workers in a coordinated way, eliminating duplication of effort."

It's unclear whether the restructuring will make it through Congress, which must approve the plan. Republicans have sought similar measures, unsuccessfully, at least twice since Congress established the department in 1980.

OMB deputy director Margaret Weichert told reporters following the announcement that the combination would allow the government to better prepare young people to enter the work force.

Asked about whether the combination would be feasible, Weichert pointed to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce as an example of the government already combining the two functions under one entity.

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President Donald Trump speaks

The trade publication Education Week reported on Wednesday that the change was expected.

Trump announced his plans to shake up the structure of the government shortly after assuming office, in a March 2017 executive order titled the "Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch."

That order called on the Office of Management and Budget to report 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."

The Education Department is one of the smallest Cabinet-level agencies, employing about 4,000 people. It has a budget of $70 billion.

While a GOP presidential hopeful in 2011, Rick Perry famously called for the department to be eliminated at a CNBC presidential debate. Perry named the Education Department as one of three he wanted to eliminate. He couldn't recall the third.

"The third agency of government I would do away with—Education…Commerce and, let's see. I can't," he said. After a pause, he said: "Oops."

Perry later said the third department he wanted to eliminate was the one he now leads, the Department of Energy.

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