Tracking FEPA in the U.S. Senate

The Foundations of Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (FEPA) (H.R. 4174) passed in the U.S. House of Representatives after the rules were suspended and a voice vote taken. The Senate companion bill (S.2046) was introduced by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) who is the ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee.

The Senate bill has been read twice and was referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Here is the list of the committee members along with their Twitter handles and office phone numbers.

The primary issue with FEPA is that it would create a “unified evidence-building plan” for the entire federal government – in essence, a national database containing data from every federal agency on every citizen.

What could possibly go wrong there?

Please read and share this one-pager on the bill about why student privacy advocates have grave concerns about this bill.

Senate GOP Helps Nix Troubling Appointment

We finally have some good news the area of appointments to the U.S. Department of Education. One troubling appointment has been nixed because of her support for Common Core.

Politico reported this morning:

Well, the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education may still be up for grabs after the Trump administration recently reversed plans to nominate New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera for the assistant secretary job, POLITICO has learned. The administration’s decision to pull back an offer came after Republicans raised concerns about Skandera’s support for the Common Core standards. The offer appears to have been extended before Hill Republicans were consulted.

“About a dozen Republican offices were skeptical that they could ever vote yes” on Skandera because of her embrace of the standards, said a senior GOP aide. Those English and math standards are reviled by conservatives as a symbol of federal overreach. Republicans also weren’t interested in another fight over an education nominee after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ bruising confirmation process. Skandera, who sits on the governing board for the Common Core-aligned PARCC test, declined to comment.

Hanna Skandera was not a welcome nominee for those of us who are opposed to Common Core. We wonder when President Trump was going to act on his opposition to the standards, and we are still waiting.

Will he finally appoint someone to the the Department who actually opposes Common Core and wants to shrink the Federal role in education? Or will he continue to make the Department in Jeb Bush’s image?

John King Confirmed as Secretary of Education

The U.S. Senate confirmed Dr. John B. King, Jr. as Secretary of Education on a 49-40 vote. Here’s the role call vote below, courtesy of Michelle Malkin.

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I could not watch all of the debate, but I did catch U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) give his floor speech which was well done. I encourage you to take time to watch it.

Will The Senate Vote to Stop John King?

john-b-king-barack-obama

Dr. John B. King, Jr., the acting U.S. Secretary of Education, is up for a confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate later today. As most of our readers know King was a disaster as the New York State Commissioner of Education prior to being hired as an Assistant Secretary of Education. President Barack Obama then appointed King to replace Arne Duncan when he announced he was stepping down as Secretary of Education.

It doesn’t look promising unfortunately since his confirmation was passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) on a 16 to 6 vote last Wednesday. U.S. Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Rand Paul (R-KY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Tim Scott (R-SC) voted against King’s nomination in committee.

Will Estrada, the director of federal relations with the Home School Legal Defense Association, explained in a video released late last week why King’s confirmation should be stopped.

In a nutshell as Commissioner of Education in New York he worked to suppress parent and activist voices from being heard by cancelling town halls when he realized they were not going to go his way. They later rescheduled town halls stacked with friendly voices. He supported Common Core, and oversaw the failed implementation of the standards and aligned assessments in his state. He also supported the Every Student Succeeds Act. Senators who supported that bill have the chance to redeem themselves by voting against his confirmation.

You can still contact your Senators today and tell them to vote no on King’s confirmation as Secretary of Education, the vote is expected to take place at 5:30p (ET).

Action Needed: ESSA Vote Expected in Senate on Tuesday

Photo credit: FEMA/Bill Koplitz (Public Domain)

Photo credit: FEMA/Bill Koplitz (Public Domain)

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, on Tuesday.

There are several ways that you can take action.

You can tweet your Senators, click here to join a Twitter campaign that includes pre-loaded tweets.  You can also leave a comment on their Facebook page or call. Go here for the list of Senators, their Facebook pages and DC office phone numbers.

You can also call the primary U.S. Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Be sure to contact your Senators TODAY!

Here are some talking points from a recent analysis of the bill:

  1. PROCESS VIOLATES TENENTS OF AMERICAN GOVERNMENT – OF TRANSPARENCY IN THE BILL PROCESS AND DELIBERATIVE DEBATE. Process of forwarding conference report echoes the process of (Un) Affordable Care Act “You have to pass it to see what’s in it” – that is. Congress won’t be reading it.
  2. HEAVILY INCENTIVIZES STATES TO MAINTAIN COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS: As a requirement of the Act, states must “demonstrate” to the Secretary that they have adopted standards that are aligned to the same definition of “college and career” standards used to force states into adopting Common Core under NCLB waivers.
  3. ASSESSSMENT OF NON-COGNITIVE ATTITUDES, BEHAVIORS, and MINDSETS: Bill will maintain momentum for increasing non-academic data collection of student and family information into statewide longitudinal data systems.
  4. PARENT RIGHTS: The Salmon Amendment in HR5 that allowed parents to opt out of high-stakes state assessments is no longer included. Students whose parents opt them out of the test, must be included in the 95% participation formula.
  5. EROSION OF STATE POWER OVER EDUCATION: The state accountability system must be structured as per the federal bill.
  6. FEDERAL CONTROL OF STANDARDS CONTENT: Bill language appears to require standards that align with career and technical education standards, indicating that the standards must align to the federally approved Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
  7. NO CHECKS ON FEDERAL POWER, FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS JUDGE AND JURY OF ITS OWN ACTIVITY – NO SUNSET OF LAW: The framework would only “authorize” ESEA for four more years, as opposed to the typical five, but, there’s no sunset provision in the bill, so it could go on in perpetuity.
  8. EXPANSION OF GOVERNMENT ROLE IN CHILDCARE/DISINCENTIVE TO ACTIVELY SEEK EMPLOYMENT: Bill is said to expand Head Start to childcare with Child Care Development Block Grant Act of 2014 so that no work requirements will be expected of low income parents to access grant money to pay for childcare.
  9. ADVANCES PROFITING BY PRIVATE CORPORATIONS USING EDUCATION DOLLARS THAT SHOULD GO TO CLASSROOMS: Increasing the education budget to fund private investors to implement government- selected social goals is outside the scope of improving education, and outside the authority of Congress as described in the U.S. Constitution.
  10. INCREASED ESEA SPENDING: ESSA authorizes appropriations for fiscal years 2017-2020. Spending authority will increase by 2% each year.
  11. EROSION OF LOCAL CONTROL: The conference report language encourages states to form consortia that, without congressional approval, may be determined illegal.
  12. DATA PRIVACY: Language in the conference report appears to rein in the Secretary of Education’s power and protect student data by inserting prohibitions of collecting additional student data, but makes no attempt to reverse the harm already done by Secretary Duncan’s modification of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

What Did the Senate Just Give Us? Looking at Every Child Achieves (Part II)

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

Here is a recap of some of the other important amendments proposed for S.1177, the Every Child Achieves Act, and votes that were largely disappointing for those wanting educational freedom in this now approximately 1000 page bill based on category (Please see the Congress.gov website for all of the amendments offered with links to language and a list of status, the Senate website for specific roll call votes on the amendments and S 1177 itself, andEducation Week  for other summaries.)

TESTING:

Cruz amendment (SA 2180) to get rid of federal testing mandates – This failed by a vote of 40-58. Presidential candidates Paul and Rubio joined Senator Cruz in voting for this important amendment.  Sanders voted against this great amendment favored by many Democrat teachers and Graham did not vote. All Democrats voted against this amendment and all Republicans voted for it except: Alexander, Ayotte, Capito (WV), Cochrane (MS), Corker (TN), Flake (AZ), Gardner (CO), Kirk, Portman, Rounds (SD), and Thune.  It is very sad that Republicans who say they are for smaller government voted against this effort to send control of testing back to the states and districts.

Lee amendment (SA 2162) to allow written parental testing opt out  –  Sadly, this also failed by a vote of 32-64. Every single Democrat and nineteen Republicans voted against this fundamental right of parents to direct the education of their children. Of the presidential candidates, Cruz and Paul correctly voted for this important amendment while Sanders voted against it, and Graham and Rubio did not vote.

Paul amendment (SA 2218) to permit parental opt out without being counted against the 95% participation mandate – This is quite similar to the Salmon amendment that was one of the few really strong pieces of language to pass in HR 5, The Student Success Act, the House version of the NCLB rewrite. Senator Alexander did not allow this amendment to the floor.

Tester amendment (SA 2129) to reduce testing mandate to three times in grades 3-12 for English and math instead of annually – This was never allowed to the floor for debate.

Isakson amendment (SA 2194) “to require local educational agencies to inform parents of any State or local educational agency policy, procedure, or parental right regarding student participation in any mandated assessments for that school year” – This largely symbolic amendment will be basically useless for protecting parental opt-out rights due to the 95% participation and other mandates in the main bill, but it is all the administration, leadership of both parties, and the corporate interests were willing to accept.  It passed by a vote of 97-0 with Graham and Rubio not voting.

Murphy amendment (SA 2241) to reinstate the high stakes testing accountability of NCLB – Fortunately, this failed by a complete party line vote of 43-54, with Democrats and Sanders supporting, Republicans opposing, and Cruz and Graham not voting. Teachers are appalled that the Democrats voted to return to the “test and punish” paradigm of NCLB.

Kirk amendment (SA 2161) to re-establish more test based accountability as in NCLB – This amendment similar to the Murphy amendment also failed by mostly party line a vote of 40-56 (60 votes were required) with Democrat Tester and Independent King joining most all of the Republicans in opposition; Republicans Hatch, Heller, Kirk and Murkowski joining Sanders and the rest of the Democrats in support; and Cruz, Graham, and Blumenthal (D-CT) not voting.

PSYCHOSOCIAL PROFILING & MANIPULATION – We described the positive development above of the rejection of the Heitkamp amendment, but unfortunately there were two other amendments that passed that will add to the already numerous provisions expanding this completely unacceptable federal activity in K-12 education:

Brown amendment (SA 2100) to restore the Full Service Community Schools grants from NCLB – Despite Alexander’s opposition, the horrific grant program that turns schools into a second or even first home for children and reduces parents to “breeders and feeders,” passed 43-51.  Among the purposes of the program are to “ensure that children have the physical, social, and emotional well-being to come to school ready to engage in the learning process every day.”  The grantee is supposed to do a means assessment that “identifies the academic, physical, social, emotional, health, mental health, and other needs of students, families, and community residents,” which will include all sorts of mental health data gathering. The list  of services that can be offered is 23 items long and included mental health services and “other services consistent with this part.” All of the Democrats plus Republicans Ayotte, Blunt (MO), Capito, Collins, Fischer (NE), Hoeven (ND), Isakson (GA), and Portman voted for this nanny state expansion while all of the rest of the Republicans, including presidential candidates Cruz and Paul wisely voted against it, Sanders voted for it, and Graham and Rubio did not vote.

Blunt amendment (SA 2195) to expand school based mental health services – This amendment to add even more mental health services was unfortunately adopted by a voice vote.  This will result in more psychological profiling and data gathering, more improper and subjective mental health labeling, and more drugging of children with psychotropic medications that have harmful if not fatal side effects. (See HERE for citations).

Franken Amendment (SA 2093) – “To end discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools” – This highly subjective, unconstitutional amendment failed by an unfortunate mostly party line vote of 52-45 (60 votes were required for passage. Ayotte (NH), Collins (ME), Kirk (IL), Heller (NV), Johnson (WI), Murkowski (AK) and Portman (OH) were the Republicans voting in support along with all of the Democrats). Presidential candidates Cruz and Paul rightly voted against this amendment and Sanders not surprisingly voted for it, while Graham and Rubio did not vote.   Senator Alexander led the opposition rightly saying that this is not a federal issue, but one belonging to states.  Regardless of one’s views on this issue, it would be impossible for the federal government to fairly enforce a discrimination policy based on “perceived sexual orientation or gender identity” just as it is with the bullying bill or the athletic policyallowing transgendered athletes to play on the teams of their choice instead of their biological gender that have recently passed in Franken’s home state of Minnesota. Completely inappropriate issues about gender identity and family structure diversity are appearing in preschool curriculum and state and national Head Start pre-K standards, which makes the preschool language that passed in ECAA all the more dangerous.

EARLY CHILDHOOD – While appreciative that the Casey universal preschool amendment was defeated, there is still plenty of early childhood in the underlying Senate bill, so we do not understand why Republican Orrin Hatch (UT) had to have another early childhood provision addedl:

Hatch amendment (SA 2082) to include “such as pay for success initiatives that promote coordination among existing programs and meet the purposes of this part” – This will require much more data gathering for the controversial pre-K assessments dealing with psychosocial issues, which is ironic because Hatch is supposed to be the data privacy guru in the Senate and he offered an amendment (see below) to “study student privacy issues.” Alexander added it under an agreement and it unfortunately passed by a voice vote.

DATA PRIVACY – There is much disturbing individual data gathering, including data on socioemotional issues that happens already thanks to Common Core related assessments, the current provisions in ESEA and other federal law and the 2012 regulatory gutting of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  There are also several data privacy bills that have been introduced including SenatorDavid Vitter’s Student Privacy Protection Act (SPPA), S 1341, which is the only one that deals with psychological data gathering.  While appreciative that they restored the prohibition on psychological data gathering in the statewide assessments, that provision is only one small step to protecting the minds and rights of conscience of our children.  So it is very disturbing that all the Senate can muster is a provision requiring a symbolic study commission to deal with student privacy issues.  Senator Hatch, author of the important but weakened Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) is the author of that amendment.  It appears that the Obama administration efforts to expand data collection and thebig business interests (Gates, Exxon) and  foundation partners (Jeb Bush’s former foundation Foundation for Excellence in Education) such as those found in the Data Quality Campaign held sway over the Senate instead of parents and privacy advocates.  The amendment passed unanimously with a vote of 89-0 with the following 11 senators not voting:

Not Voting – 11

Blunt (R-MO)
Cruz (R-TX)
Graham (R-SC)
Kirk (R-IL)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Nelson (D-FL)
Paul (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Rubio (R-FL)
Toomey (R-PA)
Vitter (R-LA)

MISCELLANEOUS:

Coons (D-DE)/Rubio amendment (SA 2243) to establish American Dream accounts –This bipartisan amendment to establish a trial grant program leading to college savings accounts had a number of competing interests. It supported the conservative value of saving for college in an effort to help poor children succeed and promotes dual enrollment which cuts college costs, but it is another federal spending program that requires much individual data collection to monitor if students are “college ready,” which currently means compliance with Common Core.  It passed with a large majority vote of 68-30 with an interesting breakdown.  Conservative Ted Cruz joined fellow presidential candidates Rubio and Sanders and all of the Democrats in supporting it, along with establishment and conservative Republicans Ayotte, Blunt, Capito, Cotton, Crapo, Daines, Gardner (CO), Hoeven, Inhofe, Johnson, Kirk, McConnell, Risch, Sasse, Scott, Sullivan, Toomey, and Vitter.  All of the rest of the Republicans led by Alexander and including presidential candidate Paul voted in opposition.  Graham did not vote.

Sanders amendment (SA 2177) to reduce youth unemployment – This amendment was to correct a very real problem of high minority youth incarceration by a very incorrect method of raising taxes to sponsor another ineffective federal program.  What Sanders and the federal government need to realize is that their social policies since the 1960s that have exploded the rates of out of wedlock births are what is responsible for this tragic circumstance.  Fortunately, this failed by vote of 43-55 mostly along party lines. Democrat Manchin and Independent King (ME who usually caucuses and votes with the Democrats) voted in opposition and Graham did not vote.

This bill will have to be reconciled with the better, but still significantly flawed House bill, HR 5 – The Student Success Act that barely passed the House on July 8th with every single Democrat and 27 conservative Republicans opposing it. President Obama has already issued a veto threat if the bill is too much like the House bill.  He apparently is not very pleased with the Senate bill either, but has fallen short of a veto threat.

Despite any discouragement, we must keep fighting to save the hearts and minds of our children and give them education for a free nation.  Please continue to inform your members of Congress about the many problems with both of these bills and demand that they leave these bills alone until after the next election. Anything that this president would sign would not be supportive of local control, parental rights and teacher autonomy given his administration’s track record with Common Core and Race to the Top.

 

What Did the Senate Just Give Us? Looking at Every Child Achieves (Part I)

Photo credit: UpstateNYer (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Photo credit: UpstateNYer (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Sadly, despite clear and detailed warnings from parents, teachers, activists, and policy experts, the US Senate passed its rewrite of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB)/Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) called The Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA – S1170) on July 16th by a vote of 81-17.   Three Democrats voted against the bill because of not enough government control, but nonetheless did the right thing.  It is extremely clear that big government and big business interests, who are supporting pro-Common Core candidates like Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Hillary Clinton, are colluding to cement federal control over American education.

We would like to thank the following senators for their opposition votes to the overall bill:

NAYs —17

Blunt (R-MO)
Booker (D-NJ)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Daines (R-MT)
Flake (R-AZ)
Lee (R-UT)
Moran (R-KS)
Murphy (D-CT)
Paul (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Rubio (R-FL)
Sasse (R-NE)
Scott (R-SC)
Shelby (R-AL)
Vitter (R-LA)
Warren (D-MA)

Three of the five presidential candidates in the Senate – Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ron Paul (R-KY), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) – voted no. Bernie Sanders (I-VT, a member of the Socialist Party running for president as a Democrat) voted for the bill. The fifth, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), did not vote. Senator Sanders offered one amendment on youth unemployment that was rejected (see below). Senators Rubio and Graham did not offer any amendments to the bill, nor did they make any statements about it afterwards.  Here are the statements of Cruz, Paul, and Sanders:

Cruz:

 “While this bill makes some improvements to the status quo, it ultimately falls short of empowering parents and local school districts. To that end, it is a missed opportunity for meaningful change.

“Decisions regarding our children’s future should be placed in the hands of those closest to students, and that is teachers and parents. This is why I introduced an amendment to give states the flexibility to develop their own accountability standards, rather than meeting criteria outlined by federal bureaucrats in the Washington cartel. This type of federal control has led to the failed, top-down policies that produced Common Core. We also had the opportunity today to significantly advance school choice for low-income students, giving them a chance to succeed at a public or private school of their choosing. Unfortunately, my colleagues in the Senate rejected these amendments, perpetuating the same tired approach that continues to fail our children.

“When the federal government is in charge, the most common outcome is accepting the lowest common denominator. When it comes to the future of our country and our children’s future, the lowest common denominator is simply unacceptable. We can do better and our children deserve better.”

Paul:

“I believe education is the great equalizer, but Washington’s intrusion in the classroom leaves most kids behind. This bill is not the solution, as it retains some of No Child Left Behind’s biggest flaws – a lack of adequate parental choice, a federal testing mandate, and continued support for Common Core,” Sen. Paul said. 

Sanders:

“On Thursday, the Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act, which would fundamentally reform No Child Left Behind. The law would replace the current high-stakes standardized testing model with an approach that would give Vermont significant flexibility to determine how to intervene in struggling schools. As a member of the Senate Education Committee, Sanders had a role in crafting the bill and successfully fought to lower the stakes on standardized testing and to preserve a federal after-school program that serves thousands of low-income students around Vermont. The bill also included a pilot program written by Senator Sanders that would allow states to develop innovative alternatives to standardized testing.”

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who co-authored the bill with Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), boasted after the bill passed about the “remarkable bipartisan consensus.”   He tried to make those that voted  against the bill sound extreme by declaring that ECAA fixed about 80% of the problems with NCLB and that even Ronald Reagan said to be happy with getting 80% of what one wants.

Well, aside from the fact that things were not fixed, but made worse with this bill, here is a little history lesson for the senior senator from Tennessee.  There was an even more remarkable bipartisan consensus in Congress in 2001 when NCLB passed the Senate floor under Senator Edward Kennedy and President George W. Bush by a whopping 91-8 vote. Only eight senators had the constitutional and educational understanding to know what a disaster NCLB would be at this same point in the process.That number has more than doubled with ECAA, so from that perspective, the forces of educational freedom are actually making some progress. We especially also want to thank Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) who voted against NCLB as a congressman and remained consistent to vote against ECAA as a senator.  Also important to note is that Senators Mike Crapo (R-!D) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) voted for NCLB in 2001 and had the great sense to change their votes due to the major continued federal overreach, psychological profiling and expansion of invasive, Common Core aligned early childhood programs for ECAA and the strong work of the grassroots in their states.  They deserve great thanks for that!

It is very concerning that several senators look to be making the same disastrous mistake again of imposing punitive, ineffective, invasive, annual statewide testing on our students and teachers and all of the other flaws of NCLB that are falsely promised to be fixed in ECAA along with all of its new problems:

Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Michael Enzi (R-WY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), John McCain (R-AZ), Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), ECAA Co-Author Patty Murray (D-WA), Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Jeff Sessions (R-AL),  Debbie Stabenow (R-MI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) [James Inhofe (R-OK) voted against NCLB off the Senate floor, but voted for the final NCLB bill and voted in favor of ECAA].

Although the overall bill passed, there were a few small bright spots:

Senator Alexander listened to the grassroots and realized the huge error of removing the prohibition on attitudinal testing in the statewide assessments.  In an amendment adopted by voice vote on July 16th, he restored the prohibition in NCLB to make sure the state assessments “do not evaluate or assess personal or family beliefs and attitudes, or publicly disclose personally identifiable information.” Here are statements released by Emmett McGroarty of American Principle in Action and myself in praise of this result:

Emmett McGroarty, Director of Education at American Principles in Action, said, “We are pleased that Senator Alexander has heard the concerns of parents and citizens and reinstated the prohibition on attitudinal testing in the statewide assessments. This is a good start. However, this addresses only one of the severe privacy and data collection problems with ECAA. Much more needs to be done to protect children.”

I later added in the press release, “We hope this is an indication that Congress is going to rein in the many other places in ECAA, in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), in the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA), and in early childhood programs where federal regulation authorizes the federal government to collect personal information on the dispositions, emotions, and attitudes of American children.”

The Senate also rejected, by a vote of 45-52, a universal preschool and home visiting program offered by Senators Robert Casey (D-PA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and others that would have been implemented on top of the already very concerning Preschool Alignment and Improvement Grants that we have explained.  Senator Alexander should be thanked for leading the opposition to this nanny state expansion, even invoking one of our talking points about “Baby Common Core,” instead calling it “Kindergarten Common Core.” All of the Republicans correctly voted against this bad amendment, except for Graham and Rubio, who did not vote. Sanders voted in support.

The Republican majority also rejected another huge expansion of mental health grants offered by North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp by a vote of 58-39 (60 votes were needed for passage). Given that there are already more than 10 other places that ECAA expands mental health programs and psychological profiling of our children, this amendment was completely duplicative and unnecessary. Of the presidential candidates, Paul and Rubio correctly voted no, Sanders voted yes, Cruz and Graham did not vote. All Democrats voted yes and all Republicans voted no except: Ayotte (NH), Cassiday (LA), Collins (ME), Daines (MT), Ernst (IA), Heller (NV), Kirk (IL), Moran (KS), Murkowski (AK), Portman (OH), Sullivan (AK), and Thune (SD).

Finally, the Republicans led by Alexander wisely rejected the Markey (D-MA) amendment (SA 2176) to establish a federal climate change education program. The amendment failed by a vote of 44-53. All of the Republicans exceot two joined by Democrats Heitkamp (ND) and Tester (MT) opposed this controversial and scientifically unsound language while all of the Democrats/Independents voted for it joined by Republicans Ayotte and Kirk.  Graham did not vote.

Friday, I’ll look at the amendments in depth.

Sandra Stotsky Warns of U.S. Senate’s “Gross Violation of Civic Procedure” In Reauthorization of ESEA

Sandra Stotsky in a video released over the weekend warns of the U.S. Senate’s “gross violation of civic procedure” in their upcoming attempt to reauthorize No Child Left Behind in the S.1171, the Every Child Achieves Act.

Watch here or below:

The Danger in the Details of the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015

Photo credit: UpstateNYer (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Photo credit: UpstateNYer (CC-By-SA 3.0)

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee recently passed the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (ECAA) in the hope of finally reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. ECAA is expected to go before the Senate for a vote soon.  Supporters of the bill claim it will undo many of the prescriptive requirements of NCLB and “restore freedom to parents, teachers, principals, and other school leaders.”  While the ECAA wisely removes the requirements for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and specific sanctions for low-performing schools, it also adds language that, read properly, actually expands the control of the federal government over education. Why would Republican senators be going in this direction?

Participation in federal programs under NCLB and the proposed ECAA requires that each state submit an application, or state plan, to the U.S. Department of Education (USED). The state must demonstrate how its education system — including standards, assessments, accountability, and other components — will comply with the conditions of the legislation. If the Secretary of Education determines that a state plan fails to meet all those requirements, and if the state refuses to make the recommended changes, the Secretary has the authority to disqualify the state.

Many ECAA supporters argue Sec.1111(a)(6)(A)(v)(I) of the Act would prohibit the Secretary from forcing states to adopt USED’s preferred academic standards, as was done with the Common Core through waivers and grants. Here is the ECAA language they cite:

the Secretary may not require as a condition of plan approval that the state “include in, or delete from, such a plan any criterion that specifies, defines, or prescribes—the standards or measures that States or local educational agencies use to establish, implement, or improve challenging State academic standards, including the content of, or achievement levels within, such standards.”

Although this language looks promising in isolation, it wouldn’t apply to a “requirement” of the state plan. Under Sec.1111(a)(4), a state plan can be disqualified “[i]f the Secretary determines that a State plan does not meet the requirements of this subsection or subsection (b) or (c),” which includes standards, assessments and state accountability systems. And one of these “requirements” is the new mandate – not present in NCLB — that the state’s standards “align” to specific criteria:

ECCA: (D) ALIGNMENT.—Each State shall demonstrate that the challenging State academic standards are aligned with—“(i) entrance requirements, without the need for academic remediation, for the system of public higher education in the State; (ii) relevant State career and technical education standards; and (iii) relevant State early learning guidelines, as required under section 658E(c)(2)(T) of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 9858c(c)(2)(T))

If a state can’t “demonstrate” to the Secretary’s satisfaction how the standards submitted in its application align to public university entrance requirements, career and technical education (CTE) standards, and the early-learning guidelines of the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCD), the Secretary may demand changes to the standards.  And states have little, if any, direct control over the standards required under these three areas.

Consider the first alignment criterion: (i) entrance requirements, without the need for academic remediation, for any public institution of higher education in the state. This requirement may in fact ensure that the states will continue to use the Common Core standards.  In their applications for Race to the Top funding and NCLB waivers, states had to provide assurances from the heads of state public universities that the universities would place students who achieved a certain score on the Common Core-aligned assessments directly into credit-bearing courses, without remediation. There has been a concerted effort over the past four years to complete this process, and for many state universities it is already accomplished.

Because of this assurance, USED treats the requirements for state post-secondary institutions as synonymous with the Common Core’s expectations for high-school graduation. Including this language in the ECAA is a deliberate attempt to make the expectations of Common Core the automatic default for standards alignment. It is highly unlikely that a state would jeopardize approval of its plan under ECAA by changing the standards that it knows USED will accept.

The second alignment criterion, “(ii) relevant State career and technical education standards,” refers to the standards for Career and Technical Education (CTE) established through a negotiated process between the Secretary of Education and states through the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act. Perkins establishes the standards for different vocational tracks in high school AND the “levels of achievement” required on them. According to the accountability guidance issued by USED’s  Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), the Secretary “negotiates annual performance levels on each of the core indicators with each state and then holds them (sic) accountable for achieving results.“ Any state standards for CTE courses in high school must align with those approved by the Secretary; thus, the state will have little, if any, discretion over the state CTE standards — if it wants to participate in federal education programs under the Act.

The third criterion – requiring alignment to the requirements of the Child Care Development Block Grant Act, which covers children as young as six weeks in federal daycare programs – is part of a significant expansion of federal control over education. NCLB applied only to K-12 education programs, but ECAA (through this third criterion, and through a separate provision announcing jurisdiction over “all public school students”), the federal government will now control standards for educating all the babies and toddlers the government wants to force into early-childhood programs.

The ECAA also diminishes state autonomy over education by requiring increased consultation and coordination with stakeholders in programs established under other federal legislation, such as the Child Care Development Block Grants administered through the Department of Health and Human Services. While NCLB also required the coordination of the state plan with federal agencies, the ECAA adds to the list. The ECAA thus does not treat a state as a sovereign entity, functioning outside of the federal government, but as a single part of other government services.

Sec.1111(a)(1)(A) of the ECAA requires coordination of the state plan with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act,  the Child Care Development Block Grant, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002. Intertwining the education system to workforce training, early-childhood education, and larger data-collection systems (Education Science Reform Act) will not serve to liberate schools and teachers, but bind them to the larger system. How this benefits a student sitting in a classroom is far from obvious.

The implications for states dealing with these new requirements for standards alignment are troubling. How would a state both align its standards to the requirements of the ECAA, and maintain any meaningful differentiation from other states or discretion over the substance of the standards? What is clear is that the K-12 system will not function according to the needs of the students it serves; it will serve the federal government and the larger system of federal control.

ECAA is not about emancipating the states from the control of USED, but rather about incorporating the states’ K-12 systems into the seamless web of federal government services, from cradle through the workforce.

Cross-posted from Parents Against the Common Core

Vitter’s Student Data Privacy Bill Gains Grassroots Support

David_Vitter-112th_congress-U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduced the “Student Privacy Protection Act,”  a bill that addresses problems with FERPA and would amend the General Education Provisions Act to strengthen student privacy.  Numerous grassroots activists representing 32 different organizations released a joint statement.

“Parents are right to feel betrayed when schools collect and release information about their kids. This is real, sensitive information – and it doesn’t belong to some bureaucrat in Washington D.C.,” Vitter said. “We need to make sure that parents and students have complete control over their own information.”

The bill summary Vitter’s office released lists four actions this bill would implement if passed.

Rolling Back Department of Education Regulations:

  • The Student Privacy Protection Act would reinstate FERPA’s original protections by clarifying who can access student data and what information is accessible. It also requires explicit authority for authorized representatives to conduct audits and evaluations of education programs.
  • ED regulations in these three areas expanded the amount of information available without prior consent of a parent or student, as well as when and to whom that information could be released

Ensuring Parental Consent in All Cases

  • The bill implements new, more robust guidelines, in order to protect student privacy, for schools and educational agencies to release education records to third parties, even in cases of recordkeeping.
  • These entities will be required to gain prior consent from students or parents and implement measures to ensure records remain private. Further, educational agencies, schools, and third parties will be held liable for violations of the law through monetary fines.

Extending Privacy Protections to Home School Students

  • FERPA does not currently apply to students who do not attend a traditional education institution, such as students who are homeschooled, despite some states requiring homeschoolers to file information with their school district.
  • This bill extends FERPA’s protections to ensure records of homeschooled students are treated equally.

Limits Appending Data and Collection of Additional Information

  • The bill prohibits educational agencies, schools, and the Secretary of Education from including personally identifiable information obtained from Federal or State agencies through data matches in student data.
  • Federal education funds will be prohibited from being used to collect any psychological or behavioral information through any survey or assessment.

Below is the joint statement and the groups represented.

We; the undersigned groups that have grave concerns about the loss of student and family data privacy, psychological profiling, and career tracking related to the Common Core standards, aligned state tests and longitudinal data systems; are grateful to Senator David Vitter for introducing and do strongly support The Student Privacy Protection Act.

This legislation provides important protections in the following areas:

  • Rolling back the disastrous extra-congressional regulatory changes that vastly expanded access of third parties to our children’s personally identifiable data, now limiting that access and requiring parental consent in all cases
  • Holding educational agencies, schools, and third parties liable for violations of the law through monetary fines, damages, and court costs
  • Prohibiting psychological or attitudinal profiling of students or gathering of sensitive family information via any assessments, including academic assessments or surveys
  • Extending data protections for homes chooled students required to submit educational data to public school districts
  • Prohibiting educational agencies, schools, and the Secretary of Education from including personally identifiable information obtained from Federal or State agencies through data matches in student data.
  • Banning Federal education funds to states or districts that film, record, or monitor students or teachers in the classroom or remotely without parent or adult student and teacher consent.

We strongly urge the senators of our respective states to co-sponsor this critically important piece of legislation and our congressional representatives to author and co-sponsor this bill in the US House.

Organizations supporting:

  • American Principles in Action
  • Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee
  • Eagle Forum
  • Education Liberty Watch
  • Home School Legal Defense Association
  • Women on the Wall
  • Special Ed Advocates to Stop Common Core
  • Stop Early Childhood Common Core
  • Arkansans for Education Freedom
  • Arkansas Against Common Core
  • The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition
  • Florida Parents RISE
  • The Tea Party Network
  • Georgians to Stop Common Core
  • Opt Out Georgia
  • Idahoans for Local Education
  • Hoosiers Against Common Core
  • Iowa RestorEd
  • Iowa for Student Achievement
  • Kansans Against Common Core
  • Louisiana  Against Common Core
  • Common Core Forum
  • Stop Common Core Massachusetts
  • Stop Common Core in Michigan, Inc.
  • Minnesotans Against Common Core
  • Missouri Coalition Against Common Core
  • Nevada Parents and Teachers STOP Common Core
  • South Dakotans Against Common Core
  • Tennessee Against Common Core
  • Truth in Texas Education  
  • Truth in Catholic Education  
  • Utahns Against Common Core
  • WV Against Common Core
  • Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core