House and Senate ESEA Bills Advance with Student Privacy Provisions
July 2015

A successful reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also referred to as No Child Left Behind when last authorized in 2002, will depend on the ability of House and Senate negotiators to agree on a bill that President Obama will sign into law.

The president has threatened to veto the House bill, were it to arrive at his desk. He and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have expressed reserved support for the Senate bill in a Statement of Administrative Policy, noting that the administration hopes to see increased accountability measures in the final ESEA bill. However, any compromise between House and Senate negotiators will likely result in weaker accountability, not stronger, risking opposition from civil rights groups and a veto from the president.

Of particular interest to education researchers are several provisions on student privacy.

As mentioned in the June AERA Highlights, there had been serious concern that Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) would offer his student privacy bill (S 1341) as an amendment to ESEA. AERA has been actively engaged on this issue, including co-signing a letter to Vitter from the research community that emphasized how the bill would harm scientific inquiry.

Over the summer, AERA has been actively educating congressional staff about how Vitter’s proposed changes would decimate the accuracy and reliability of student data.

During the first week of ESEA debate in the Senate, Vitter decided against introducing his amendment. Instead, the Senate voted 89–0 in favor of an amendment by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) to create a commission to study student data privacy protections.

The House ESEA bill includes a provision submitted by Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) that essentially encourages schools sharing any personally identifiable information to follow current FERPA guidelines.

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