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President Trump ran in part on a promise to right-size the federal government — or at least take a hard look at how each agency is run. So give him credit for following up on that campaign pledge.

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

For those taxpayers who cringe at the growing monstrosity that is our federal government, this is good news. The measure would have to be approved by Congress, and it’s doubtful this crop of lawmakers will tackle this in a contentious midterm election year.

But they should.

The Education Department was a product of President Jimmy Carter’s tenure. Yet nearly 40 years and billions and billions later, the department has little to show for its work -- other than an entrenched bureaucracy of roughly 4,000 employees. During this time, national test scores have flat-lined.

The department’s mission is “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.”

Yet as Lindsey Burke, education policy expert at the Heritage Foundation, notes, “it has become clear that federal intervention in K-12 education has failed to achieve its primary goal: reducing gaps in academic outcomes between disadvantaged students and their more advantaged peers.”

Burke estimates that more than $2 trillion has gone toward education since President Lyndon Johnson first started getting the federal government more involved in schools. About $70 billion a year is spent currently.

The Office of Management and Budget has explained this move would allow for more coordinated efforts in addressing the “educational and skill needs” of students and workers.                                               

While Trump wants to take all the credit for the proposal, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos came to her role prepared to find ways to get the federal government out of states’ way when it comes to governing schools. She told me in February, after her first full year on the job, that she had been working on a restructuring plan for months. And this plan to combine the departments no doubt bears her fingerprints.

This certainly isn’t the first time Republicans have called for the end of the Education Department. Shortly after the department formed, for instance, Ronald Reagan ran, saying he’d abolish it.

Reagan may not have succeeded, but Trump and DeVos should continue fighting for this common sense reform.

“This proposal will make the federal government more responsive to the full range of needs faced by American students, workers and schools," DeVos said in a statement. "I urge Congress to work with the administration to make this proposal a reality.”

ijacques@detroitnews.com 

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