The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights under the Obama administration became the nation’s leading inquisitor, threatening to revoke federal funding from schools that didn’t withhold due process from students accused of sexual misconduct (or even telling off-color jokes).
It’s not clear yet that Secretary Betsy DeVos* or the acting head of OCR, Candice Jackson, have the will to make a hard break with their predecessors’ sweeping and dubious interpretations of Title IX.
But in a refreshing break with one practice, they aren’t asking for a giant bump in staff.
OCR’s fiscal year 2018 budget request proposes slashing 46 full-time equivalent positions while keeping its overall funding level of $106.8 million.
Full-time permanent staff “obligations” would fall by $3.2 million, while full-time temporary and part-timers would rise by $60,000. Another $3.7 million in IT spending would roughly cancel out the cuts.
Full-time equivalents would fall from 582 to 523, but no one would get fired: “The decrease is needed to cover the 1.9 percent pay raise, [Civil Rights Data Collection], and central services increases. OCR will rely on attrition to reduce its FTE level by 46.”
In an email blast, the due-process advocacy group Stop Abusive and Violent Environments pointed to a chart in the request that noted one person filed 88 percent of the sex-discrimination complaints in FY 2016.
In its budget requests in the waning years of the Obama administration, OCR asked the Republican-controlled Congress for large funding and staff increases.
For example, lawmakers gave it a 7 percent funding increase for the FY 2016 cycle, which the administration promptly declared too little, demanding a 28 percent increase for FY 2017 to enable “more vigorous enforcement of our Nation’s civil rights laws” (meaning nonbinding regulatory guidance).
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