Category Archives: Federal Issues

GOP Measure Would Allow StatesTo Opt Out of EPA Power-Plant RULE

Washinton Examiner BY ZACK COLMAN | MARCH 24, 2015 | 12:40 PM

“We’re hoping for a vote this week, but nothing is locked in,” Portman spokeswoman Caitlin…

Senate Republicans are pushing a budget amendment that would allow states to opt out of a proposed emissions rule for existing power plants.

Under the measure from Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, which was filed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., state governors or legislatures could choose not to comply with the proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulation if they determine the policy would cause economic harm to low or fixed-income families, introduce electric reliability problems and a handful of other reasons.

“Yes, it allows states to opt out without standing in the way of states that want to participate. We’re hoping for a vote this week, but nothing is locked in,” Portman spokeswoman Caitlin Conant told the Washington Examiner in an email.

The power plant rule looks to curb electricity emissions 30 percent by 2030 and is the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate agenda. He would likely reject legislation that undercuts the rule, and Democrats also could thwart the move.

The move from McConnell is an outgrowth of his strategy to convince states against complying with the rule, which is due to be finalized by mid-summer. The tactic underscores the tough road McConnell and the rule’s opponents face nixing the regulation in Congress.

Opponents of the EPA rule, chiefly industry groups and Republicans, say the agency has dubious legal authority to call on renewable electricity adoption and improvements in customer energy efficiency. Meeting the 30-percent emissions reduction target by relying on two of the other main avenues for cuts — converting coal-fired power plants to natural gas and improving the efficiency of power plants — would likely be impossible.

McConnell’s office did not return a request for comment as to whether that approach would shield states from potential punitive action from the EPA for not complying with the rule.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA can impose a federal plan on the states, withdraw highway funds and make it harder to secure permits to expand industrial facilities if states refuse to cooperate.

Proposed Student Data Privacy Bill Does Little To Protect Privacy

Proposed student data privacy bill does little to protect privacy (update)

By Valerie Strauss March 23

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) is one of the sponsors of the new House student data privacy bill. (David Zalubowski/AP)

(Update: legislators did not introduce legislation on Monday as planned).

Two U.S. legislators are set to introduce a bill in the House that they say is aimed at limiting the way education technology companies can use data that they collect about students from kindergarten through the 12th grade. It’s called the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act, and its chief sponsors say it is meant to address a growing concern among students, parents and educators about the use of the oceans of data being collected about America’s young people. But a new analysis of the legislation, which you can read below, concludes that it doesn’t do much to protect the privacy of student data — and that it doesn’t stop the actual collection and mining of data by companies, which can use it to make money.

Student data privacy has become a big issue in the era of standardized testing, with education companies collecting a seemingly endless amount of information on public school students, some of it incredibly detailed.

Last year, a controversial $100 million student data collection project funded by the Gates Foundation and operated by a specially created nonprofit organization called InBloom shut down after concerns about privacy led states to withdraw. The information was to be stored in a data cloud that would hold incredibly detailed data points on millions of schoolchildren with the stated mission of allowing education officials to use the information to target educational support. Activists led by New York’s Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, raised alarms that InBloom could not provide a 100 percent guarantee that the data could be stored securely.

The House sponsors of the proposed bill are Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), and Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.); Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also is expected to introduce student privacy legislation. In February, the White House issued a statement about its efforts to improve data privacy that said it was working with these legislators on advancing student data privacy. Polis and Messer were expected to introduce the bill on Monday but did  not; a spokewoman for Messer said in an e-mail that a draft bill had been released and the sponsors were working on technical details before formally introducing it.

The draft Polis-Messer bill is called the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act. But Haimson said in a piece on the Student Privacy Matters Web site that the bill addresses virtually none of the concerns that parents have about what is being done with data about their children. She said:

“The bill doesn’t require any parental notification or consent before schools share personal data with third parties, or address any of the current weaknesses in FERPA.  It wouldn’t stop the surveillance of students by Pearson or other companies, or the collection and sharing of huge amounts of highly sensitive student information, as inBloom was designed to do.”

“All the bill does is ban online services utilized by schools from targeting ads to kids – or selling their personal information, though companies could still advertise to kids through their services and or sell their products to parents, as long as this did not result from the personal information gathered through their services. Even that narrow prohibition is incomplete, as vendors would still be allowed to target ads to students as long as the ads were selected based on information gathered via student’s single online session or visit – with the information not retained over time.”

Rachael Stickland, Colorado co-chair of the Parent Coalition, said:

“The bill doesn’t bar many uses of personal information that parents are most concerned about, including vendor redisclosures to other third parties, or data-mining to improve their products or create profiles that could severely limit student’s success by stereotyping them and limiting their opportunities.”

Here are other weaknesses of the bill, as identified by Haimson and Stickland:

  • Parents would not be able to delete any of the personal information obtained by a vendor from their children, even upon request, unless the data resulted from an “optional” feature of the service chosen by the parent and not the district or school.
  • The bill creates a huge loophole that actually could weaken existing privacy law by allowing vendors to collect, use or disclose personal student information in a manner contrary to their own privacy policy or their contract with the school or district, as long as the company obtains consent from the school or district.  It is not clear in what form that consent could be given, whether in an email or phone call, but even if a parent was able to obtain the school’s contract or see the vendor’s privacy policy, it could provide false reassurance if it turns out the school or district had secretly given permission to the company to ignore it.
  • Vendors would be able to redisclose students’ personal information to an unlimited number of additional third parties, as long as these disclosures were made for undefined “K12 purposes.”
  • Vendors would be able to redisclose individual student’s de-identified or aggregate information for any reason or to anyone, without restrictions or safeguards to ensure that the child’s information could not be easily re-identified through widely available methods.

It Happened In March

It Happened in March

This month, we wanted to hi-light two March “firsts” from American history that center on presidential appointments.

On March 22, 1790, Thomas Jefferson began serving as America’s first Secretary of State under the Constitution.Thomas JeffersonThis appointment had been made by President George Washington and approved by the U. S. Senate in September of 1789. As the Secretary of State, Jefferson’s primary job to be “the president’s chief foreign affairs adviser.” He also took on other major responsibilities as well — such as laying out the grounds for the brand new federal capital that was to be build in Washington, D. C.

 

On March 18, 1877, civil rights leader and Gospel minister Frederick Douglass became the first African American confirmed by the U. S. Frederick DouglasSenate to serve in a presidential appointment. He had been selected by President Rutherford B. Hayes to be the Marshal of Washington, D.C  — a position established to “support the federal courts.” His responsibilities included serving “the subpoenas, summonses, writs, warrants and other process issued by the courts, [making] all the arrests and [handling] all the prisoners.” Prior to this appointment, Douglass had held various positions under previous presidents, but none had required Senate confirmation. In all, Douglass served under four Republican presidents.

 

The Conservative Problem With the Latest Version of No Child Left Behind

The Conservative Problem With the Latest Version of No Child Left Behind

Daily Signal Kelsey Harkness / @kelseyjharkness / February 25, 2015
Infographic: Kelsey Harris

This week, the House of Representatives will vote on an ambitious rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act, which is the most far-reaching K-12 federal education law ever created.

Under consideration is a 620-page proposal called the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), which Republican leadership says will scale back Washington’s involvement in local education.

But conservatives say the measure doesn’t go far enough in doing that.

“This proposal spends nearly as much as No Child Left Behind, is nearly as long in page length, and fails to give states an option to opt out of the law,” said Lindsey Burke, The Heritage Foundation’s Will Skillman Fellow in Education. “As it stands, it’s a huge missed opportunity to restore state and local control of education.”

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The Obama administration also opposes the legislation, fearing that it would be detrimental to schools nationwide. If the bill were to reach his desk, the president’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, suggested that Obama would issue a veto.

“As of today, this isn’t something we could support,” he told a group of reporters on Monday.

The Student Success Act would consolidate dozens of programs authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now known as No Child Left Behind) and grant states more flexibility in how they use roughly $2.3 billion federal education dollars.

The problem, conservatives say, is that the legislation only gives states flexibility within a limited range of the programs that fall under No Child Left Behind, and more importantly, it does not allow states to completely opt out of the law, which has long been their goal.

In an effort to fix that, Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., and Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., introduced an amendment to the Student Success Act that would allow states to withdraw completely from almost every aspect of No Child Left Behind—if they so choose.

A-PLUS

“Innovation starts locally—not in Washington,” said Walker of the conservative amendment, called Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS).

Teachers and parents know best how to meet the unique needs of their children and students, and we have seen time and time again that Washington’s top-down approach does not work.

A-PLUS has been introduced in various Congresses and was intended to provide an alternative to states that did not want to participate in No Child Left Behind. For years, states have pushed back against No Child Left Behind due to its mandates and unworkable policies.

DeSantis said the amendment “liberates states from burdensome and ineffective regulations, providing local communities with the flexibility to use federal education funding for programs that they believe will best increase the success of students in the classroom.”

Now, with Republican control of both the House and Senate, conservatives argue that Congress has an opportunity to gives states a way out from federal control of K-12 education.
Infographic: Kelsey Harris

Infographic: Kelsey Harris

Portability

In addition to allowing states to withdraw from the 80-plus programs created under No Child Left Behind, conservatives are also advocating for policies that expand the concept of portability, which is perhaps the opposition’s biggest point of contention with the Student Success Act.

As it’s currently written, the Student Success Act would allow states to make Title I dollars allocated to low-income school districts to be portable to public and charter schools.

In a perfect world for conservatives, students could use Title I dollars in a private school of their choice.

In doing so, money could follow a student to an education option that best suits his or her unique learning needs, which proponents argue provides students who are trapped in failing schools a way out.

“Title I formula funding is some of the most complex in education law and all too often, does not reach the students who it was intended to help,” said Burke. “Portability would move towards funding students instead of districts and empower families with control over education policies that affect their children every day.”

Democrats believe portability robs funds from vulnerable, low-income school districts, and instead directs them to wealthier school districts that don’t need Title I dollars.

Duncan said the current portability provision included in the Student Success Act would be “devastating” to the nation’s poorest schools, stripping them of education funding they can’t afford to lose.

“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,” he said in a statement.

That approach is backward. We can’t just cut our way to opportunity. Our kids deserve better. Every child—no matter his or her ZIP code—deserves a quality education, including access to high-quality preschool and a fair shot at getting ahead.

Bipartisan Solution?

As an alternative, the Senate Education Committee is drafting their own version of the Student Success Act, one that they believe could pass with bipartisan support.

“Bipartisan discussions between [Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.,] and [Sen. Patty Murray’s, D-Wash.,] staffs on fixing No Child Left Behind are moving along well, and Sen. Alexander remains positive that they can reach agreement on key issues,” an aide for Alexander, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, told The Daily Signal yesterday.

“Sen. Alexander remains positive that they can reach agreement on key issues. [He] hopes to fix this broken law to help states, school districts, and schools better serve all students,” she added.

Alexander and Murray have not released details of the proposal.

With the Obama administration already suggesting that the president would veto the Student Success Act—and the Senate working on their own bipartisan version—the chances of enacting any legislation that includes the conservative A-PLUS solution are bleak.

But that won’t stop Walker from trying.

“The president has threatened to veto practically everything under the sun and yesterday’s veto of Keystone clearly showed he is more interested in playing politics than working with Congress,” said Walker, adding:

Parents and teachers—not government bureaucrats—should have the ultimate say in education. They know best how to meet the unique needs of their children and students. A-PLUS further empowers states and offers greater flexibility in federal education spending. It is smart, conservative education reform that strengthens the broader goal of the Student Success Act to remove the federal government from classrooms.

Action Alert – Common Core (Must Read)

ACTION ALERT: STOP HR 5

Parents Against Common Core

Congressional Leadership Is Bull-Rushing Through HR5, the 600 Page Reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (rebranded the “Student Success Act”)

The House votes this week.  Call your Representative and call the Speaker of the House and tell them to vote “NO” on HR 5! 202-224-3121. 

Below are just a few of the problems.

1. HR5 Denigrates Parental Rights and Seizes State Sovereignty

  • No program shall “operate within a State, unless the legislature of that State shall have . . . waived the State’s rights and authorities to act inconsistently with any requirement that might be imposed by the Secretary as a condition of receiving that assistance.” (Sec. 6561) (emphasis added).
  • Federal requirements will trump the rights “reserved to the States and individual Americans by the United States Constitution” to lead in the education of their child. (Sec. 6564)
  • Requires states to change laws and regulations to “conform” to HR5. (Sec. 1403)
  • Alters the governance structures of states by requiring them to form “Committees of Practitioners” to whom the state must submit rules and regulations. (Sec. 1403)

2. HR5 Does Nothing to Relieve Children From No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB’s) Oppressive Testing Requirements.

3. Feds Will Effectively Direct State Education Policy through Enhanced Continuation of Heavy-Handed NCLB Policies

  • Requires states to demonstrate to the federal government that their standards, assessments, and state accountability systems meet the goal of “prepar[ing] all students to graduate high school for postsecondary education or the workforce.” (Sec. 1001)
  • Requires states to submit comprehensive state plans, which the Secretary can disapprove. (Sec. 1111)
  • States had to make the same showing and meet the same definitional goal to receive NCLB waivers and Race to the Top grants.. HR5 allows for a Common Core “rebrand.”  (Sec. 1001) and (Sec. 1111(3)(A))
  • Prohibitions against the Secretary forcing states into adopting Common Core are meaningless.

4. Increases Federal Data Collection To Control Curriculum

  • Empowers the Department of Education to request individual student and teacher data from State and Local Education Agencies.
  • Authorizes substantial new funding to use this data to evaluate whether schools are using “effective” instructional methods.  (Sec. 2111(b)(1)(A)) and (Sec. 2132)

Megyn Kelly Played This Video from George W. Bush and Liberal Heads are Exploding

On FOX News’ The Kelly File  on Thursday, host Megyn Kelly played an eerily prophetic, timely, and applicable video from George W. Bush in 2007 warning about the consequences of pulling out of Iraq too early (WATCH VIDEO BELOW).

Bush was roundly criticized for the comments at the time, but considering the horrific events in the Middle East excalating while Obama works on lowering his golf handicap, Bush’s words have even deeper impact.

“As we track these new terror concerns at home and overseas, we are reminded of warnings we heard back in 2007,” Kelly stated.

“America was fighting the Iraq War; President Bush had just ordered U.S. troops to surge in Iraq, and critics were demanding that the U.S. withdraw the troops, when President Bush issued this frighteningly accurate, as it turns out, assessment of what would happen if we did that,” Kelly said introducing the short video clip.

Here’s former President George W. Bush’s prophetic warning from July 12, 2007 about pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq too early (emphasis added):

“I know some in Washington would like us to start leaving Iraq now. To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we’re ready would be dangerous, for Iraq, for the region, and for the United States.

It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda. It would mean that we would be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we would allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. 

It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.”

And how did current President Barack Obama refer to this new enemy, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), or as he likes to more politicially-correct term, ISIL? The organization of Muslim Brotherhood related Islamic terrorists who are beheading our reporters and have taken over large areas of the Middle East?

In an interview with The New Yorker,  in January of this year, Obama said:

“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant. I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.”

WATCH BELOW: