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Betsy DeVos gets bad reviews from employees as morale at Education Department plummets, survey finds

Since Betsy DeVos became education secretary, morale in her department has plummeted. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Job satisfaction at the U.S. Education Department has plummeted over the past year, according to an annual survey of federal employees.

The Education Department had a morale drop of 12.4 percentage points — from 59.7 percent in 2017 to 47.3 percent in 2018. It was one of the steepest declines among all federal agencies, the 2018 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government report said.

Education Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Hill said the change in job satisfaction resulted from the new path Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has taken the agency. She said in a statement:

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. 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.

Over the past year, career department employees have privately complained about DeVos’s leadership, saying their expertise has been ignored by her political appointees to top jobs. And they have expressed opposition to many of the positions she has taken. DeVos rolled back Obama-era civil rights protections for some marginalized students and made it easier for for-profit colleges to operate. DeVos has also limited the ability of employees to work from home and fought with the department’s union.

The report, released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service and the management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group, shows that morale fell at nearly 60 percent of federal agencies from 2017 to 2018. It provides results from the first full year of the Trump administration and is a clear rebuke by federal employees of its policies and attitudes toward them.

Most of the declines were far smaller than what was found at the Education Department, though morale among the workforce at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fell by 25.2 percentage points. At the Export-Import Bank of the United States, it declined 18.1 percentage points, and at the National Labor Relations Board, the measure of worker morale declined 12.6 percentage points.

The morale drops are hardly a surprise, given the hostility that Trump and many of his appointees have directed toward the agencies and their missions. DeVos has said she wouldn’t mind if the department closed, expressing her long-standing opposition to federal involvement in local education.