Peering into Privacy

DC Shuttle …

House Begins Work on Student Data Privacy Legislation. The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education of the House Committee on Education and Workforce held a hearing entitled “How Emerging Technology Affects Student Privacy.” During the hearing, the subcommittee discussed possible revisions to the Family Educational Right and Privacy Act (FERPA). Rep. Todd Rokita, chair of the subcommittee, noted that “Despite the advent of computers, the Internet, Wi-Fi, and cloud services, the law has not been significantly updated since its introduction in 1974.” The main topic of debate was how far Congress should go in blocking schools and third-party vendors from using student data for advertising or for compiling student profiles which advertisers could use to target ads. The punishment for violating the student privacy law was also discussed. Witness Joel Reidenberg, a law professor at Fordham University, noted in his opening remarks that the only sanction under FERPA is denial of federal education funds. He called this a “nuclear option” which has never been used. Reidenberg encouraged lawmakers to implement a series of graduated penalties.

High School Graduation Rate Increases. The National Center for Education Statistics released its annual report of the high school graduation rate showing 81% of the Class of 2013 graduated within four years, the highest rate since states began calculating them uniformly in 2010. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement, “America’s students have achieved another record-setting milestone. We can take pride as a nation knowing that we’re seeing promising gains, including for students of color.”

Student Success Act Heads to House Floor. The House Education and Workforce Committee approved the Student Success Act, sending the measure to the full House for consideration. The Student Success Act was proposed by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the committee, and is similar to one which passed the House in 2013. The Student Success Act was the subject of a markup meeting, after which the committee voted along party lines to send the legislation to the House for consideration. During this day-long meeting, committee members attempted to add a variety of amendments to the bill. The only one to receive the full support of the committee was one proposed by Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV), which would require states to report on the achievement of children from military families. Rep. Carlos Curbela (R-FL) offered the only other amendment which received bipartisan support. His amendment would allow states to delay using the test scores of English Language Learners in accountability systems for two years in math and three in reading and English/language arts. Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) cast her vote with the 21 Republicans, passing the amendment 22-15. The 16 other amendments which received party-line votes. In total, four amendments introduced by Republicans passed, while 14 Democratic amendments failed. In addition to the Heck and Curbela amendments, the passed amendments would affirm states’ rights (proposed by Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK)) and require annual reporting of federal funding (proposed by Representative Dave Brat (R-VA). One of the Democratic amendments that failed would have replaced Kline’s language and replaced it with a Democratic version of the bill. After the markup, the committee Democrats website said in a press release, “Along strict party lines, Republicans on the Education and Workforce Committee pushed through a bill that reduces funding, eliminates and weakens protections for our disadvantaged students, fails to provide a quality education for all children, and neglects our public school teachers. Committee Democrats offered several amendments to fix the legislation’s glaring problems with sound, research-backed policies, but were voted down by the GOP majority.” Committee Republicans said of the Student Success Act, “this responsible legislation will repair the nation’s broken K-12 education system by reducing the federal footprint, restoring local control, and empowering parents and education leaders to hold schools accountable.” The Student Success Act will be considered by the House the week of February 24. To read more about this hearing, please see Education Week.

White House Raises Concerns with ESEA Reauthorization Bill. The White House released a report that denounced the Student Success Act, as passed by the House Education and Workforce Committee. The report illustrated how the Student Success Act would affect funding for each state’s poor children. It also analyzed the effects of the Title I portability provision in the Student Success Act, which allows Title I funds to follow eligible students as they move among public and charter schools. Kline issued a response defending his legislation, saying “The White House is using scare tactics and budget gimmicks to kill K-12 education reform.” Duncan also released a statement about the bill, saying, “Rather than helping improve the schools that need it most, the Republican bill would actually cut investments in these schools while increasing funds for some of the wealthiest areas in the country.” Duncan spoke earlier in the week to emphasize the importance of federal spending on innovation in education, which would be cut under the Republican No Child Left Behind (NCLB) reauthorization proposals. Read more about Duncan’s speech from the Washington Post.

Education Groups Question Funding in NCLB Updates. The Committee for Education Funding, a nonpartisan, nonprofit coalition of 115 national education groups, sent letters to the leaders of the House and Senate education committees this week raising concerns about funding levels in both the Senate and House draft reauthorization bills.

Study on Girls, Math and Science. A new study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research studies underlying reasons why women are underrepresented in math and science jobs.

We publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington collected by the New England Council, of which NEBHE is a member. This edition is drawn from the Higher Education Update in the Council’s Weekly Washington Report of Feb. 17, 2015. Founded in 1925, the New England Council is a nonpartisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth and a high quality of life in the New England region. The Council’s mission is to identify and support federal public policies and articulate the voice of its membership regionally and nationally on important issues facing New England. For more information, please visit:  


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