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Education Department Furloughs Averted Despite Sequester

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EDUCATION FURLOUGHS
Education Secretary Arne Duncan told his department no workers would be furloughed because of sequester budget cuts. (Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call) | Getty Images

As some federal workers face furloughs because of sequestration budget cuts, the U.S. Education Department's approximately 4,700 employees can breathe easy, according to an internal memo sent Friday.

"ED will not need to furlough any employees this fiscal year," Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrote to his staff.

The Education Department joins the Government Accountability Office and the departments of agriculture, commerce, justice, and state in avoiding employee furloughs,
according to Government Executive. Thousands of employees at the departments of defense, labor and homeland security will have to take unpaid leave, as will workers at the IRS and Environmental Protection Agency.

Sequestration's mandatory cuts will affect the Education Department in other ways. Employees will avoid furloughs because the department "pared back spending through significant reductions in hiring, contracts, travel, printing, supplies, and conferences," Duncan wrote. The department cut about $2.5 billion in spending and has left about 43 percent of 773 job vacancies unfilled, according to Education Week.

"These administrative cuts have not been easy for some of you, and we had to consider the option of furloughs," Duncan wrote. "Beyond the obvious impact on each of you, multiple furlough days in the final months of the fiscal year could delay or prevent grants or loans; increase the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse; and make it difficult to carry out the Department’s mission." Duncan said he decided against furloughs because it "would not be in the best interest of the taxpayers, states, schools, and students who benefit from the Department’s programs."

Duncan said in February that he expected to furlough workers. In earlier communications to his staff, he wrote that the sequester would "likely require the department to furlough many of its own employees for multiple days."

Duncan's full memo:

Greetings, ED Team:
 


It is fitting that we end this Public Service Recognition Week on a high note.  What better way to reiterate my appreciation than to say:  ED will not need to furlough any employees this fiscal year.
 


Over the past 2 years, we have thoughtfully examined our administrative accounts and pared back spending through significant reductions in hiring, contracts, travel, printing, supplies, and conferences.
 


Additionally, we had to make cuts because of the March 1 sequester order and another cut in the continuing resolution.  These administrative cuts have not been easy for some of you, and we had to consider the option of furloughs.  Beyond the obvious impact on each of you, multiple furlough days in the final months of the fiscal year could delay or prevent grants or loans; increase the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse; and make it difficult to carry out the Department’s mission.  Therefore, cutting back on employees’ work days at this time would not be in the best interest of the taxpayers, states, schools, and students who benefit from the Department’s programs. 
 


Instead of furlough days, we have now found a way to cut contract spending even more than expected, achieving all of the required savings in administrative funds.  The lack of furlough days should enable us to be as responsive as possible to our program grantees who are bearing the greater sequester burden. 
 


Once again, I thank you for being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars.  You deserve thanks and support for your hard work, not cuts to your pay, so I am pleased to be able to ease your minds on this issue.
 

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