Photo credit: Martin Jacobsen (CC-By-SA 3.0)
Photo credit: Martin Jacobsen (CC-By-SA 3.0)
Photo credit: Martin Jacobsen (CC-By-SA 3.0)

(Washington, DC) American Principles in Action warns activists about two bills before Congress this week that they say would further entrench federal control in education.

The center-right group based in Washington, DC called on activists to tell Congress to reject H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, which they say would reauthorize many of the oppressive and ineffective No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements and would expand federal control of education.

American Principles in Action joins a growing chorus of opposition to this bill from the left and the right.  Grassroots activists will hold a Twitter rally urging Congress to defeat the bill tomorrow.

APIA urged opposition to the legislation because NCLB denigrates parental rights, fails to relieve children from NCLB’s oppressive testing requirements, seizes state sovereignty by handing more educational control over to the federal government, and increases federal data collection.

“In provision after provision, H.R. 5 demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the Constitution and our constitutional structure.  Although it relieves the states from some NCLB burdens, it then adds others and overall sets the stage for an expanded federal footprint in our lives,” Emmett McGroarty, director of education for American Principles in Action, said in a released statement.  “Nor does it do anything to cure NCLB’s heavy-handedness in pushing an oppressive, high-stakes school environment on our teachers and our children.  It must be defeated.”

In a memo released to activists late Sunday evening the group highlighted some areas of concern:

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)

American Principles in Action is also calling on Congress to oppose S.227, the Strengthening Education through Research Act (SETRA), which would violate the privacy of millions of students and parents.

SETRA is scheduled to be voted on Wednesday, February 25th in the U.S. House—even though the Senate has not yet voted on the bill. Congressional leadership intends to call a vote on the matter in both the House and the Senate this week, despite neither body holding a hearing on the bill.

“SETRA is dangerous legislation that would expand federal psychological profiling of children through expanding research on ‘social and emotional learning,’” said Jane Robbins, Senior Fellow at American Principles in Action.  “It would facilitate sharing of education statistics across states and agencies. It would continue to rely on the now-gutted FERPA statute to protect student data. SETRA must be defeated to protect student privacy rights.”

“Leadership is betraying the Constitution and the American people by rushing this bill through. Having so blithely disrespected the American people, it is difficult to see how they will ever regain their trust,” McGroarty added.

American Principles in Action’s concerns with SETRA are three-fold:

1. SETRA reauthorizes ESRA, the Education Sciences Reform Act, first passed in 2002, which facilitates intrusive data collection on students.

ESRA began the idea of state longitudinal databases, which created the structure that would facilitate a de facto national student database. ESRA also eliminated previous penalties for sharing and otherwise misusing student data.

2. SETRA allows for psychological profiling of our children, raising serious privacy concerns.

Section 132, page 28 of SETRA: “…and which may include research on social and emotional learning, and the acquisition of competencies and skills, including the ability to think critically, solve complex problems, evaluate evidence, and communicate effectively…”

This means the federal government will continue to promote collection of students’ psychological information. APIA does not support allowing the federal government to maintain psychological dossiers on our children.

3.  SETRA depends on FERPA to protect student privacy, legislation that is now outdated and has been gutted by regulation.

FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, passed in 1974, and is no longer sufficient to protect student privacy in the age of technology. Even worse, the Obama Administration gutted FERPA so that it no longer offers the protections it once did.

Editors note: The original headline inaccurately described the opposition to this bill as conservative, while American Principles in Action is a center-right group, activists cover the political spectrum.

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