Statement from AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine on the Proposed Elimination of the State Longitudinal Data System Program in President Trump’s FY 2019 Budget Request

Tony Pals,
(202) 238-3235, (202) 288-9333 (cell)

Statement from AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine on the Proposed Elimination of the State Longitudinal Data System Program in President Trump’s FY 2019 Budget Request

February 13, 2018

The Department of Education’s Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) program provides invaluable support for building capacity for state-based longitudinal data systems. These systems serve as the foundation for how states use data and research to guide evidence-based state and local-level decisions.

Eliminating the entire $32.3 million budget for SLDS would have devastating consequences for local and state decision makers and result in a huge setback for students. Contrary to the explanation in the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Summary for the Department of Education, SLDS continues to be an enormously valuable and useful tool for state policymakers and practitioners. Rather than having fulfilled and outlived its original purpose, states continue to discover the tremendous value of data to improving educational outcomes. This progress would stop dead in its tracks if this proposal were approved.

From a research perspective, the federal SLDS program is enormously efficient. Rather than each state developing their own capacity, all states benefit from the federal SLDS expertise, the feedback during the iterative grant process, and the opportunity to learn from each other.

The administration’s decision to zero out SLDS is in direct conflict not only with the spirit of the bipartisan and bicameral Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2017, but also with Department of Education leadership statements about the importance of evidence to make difficult budget decisions.

The bottom line is that eliminating the SLDS program would undermine the capacity of researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to improve education and serve the public good.


Note: Testimony from state education leaders in front of the House Education and Workforce Committee has addressed the value of SLDS to their states.

  • Carey Wright, Mississippi State Superintendent of Education, on January 30, 2018:
    “Mississippi’s Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS), called LifeTracks, is a key component of how we use data and research to drive our work at the local and state level. The system is based at Mississippi State University and provides answers to critical research questions that help our state make strong policy decisions that are based in evidence.” Click here for full testimony

  • Robert Swiggum, Deputy Superintendent, Georgia Department of Education on March 22, 2016:
    “Thanks to a federal SLDS grant, Georgia began construction on a statewide longitudinal system in 2010 and implemented the first phase in 2011. A state-supported system supports equity across Georgia, allowing districts without the capacity or funding to support a largescale technology investment access to the benefits of a robust data system. The statewide system also allows students and teachers access to the right information when moving between districts and schools. Throughout the initial design, development, and ongoing implementation of the SLDS, we have engaged stakeholders to ensure that the system serves the needs of all Georgia’s students and teachers.” Click here for full testimony

About AERA
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) is the largest national interdisciplinary research association devoted to the scientific study of education and learning. Founded in 1916, AERA advances knowledge about education, encourages scholarly inquiry related to education, and promotes the use of research to improve education and serve the public good. Find AERA on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.