WASHINGTON - The U.S. Education Department has cut more than 550 workers during the first 15 months of the Trump administration, The Hill reported Wednesday.
The most significant cuts have occurred in the Office of Federal Student Aid, which has lost 100 workers and the Office for Civil Rights, which has cut 70 staffers since President Trump was inaugurated in January 2017. Those figures come from a report by Inside Higher Education.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos leads the department. A spokesperson for the agency said the 13 percent cutback in staffing was a result of attrition and early retirement.
The publication said DeVos has made deregulation a priority during her time as Education Secretary, which has required more staff hours to review and negotiate new rules. Inside Higher Ed noted the agency has made do with fewer civil rights workers even as it said it was working to reduce a backlog of civil rights complaints.
Former staff members said the administration is purposely choosing not to fill vacant positions after months of regular departures. But, the administration told Inside Higher Ed there's nothing unusual about the number of vacancies.
"There are natural fluctuations in staff during the transition to a new administration," said spokesperson Liz Hill. "The department continues to assess its staffing needs and will backfill positions or will hire for newly created positions based on those needs."
Former employees told the publication that the department was understaffed before DeVos took office. Congress recently appropriated more money for the Office of Civil Rights and Democratic lawmakers are continuing to press the Secretary to hire more staff to address civil rights complaints. But, she has not offered any concrete answers. Hill said a hiring plan has been implemented but did not provide any further details.
Inside Higher Ed reported that further departures from the agency are expected soon.
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