May 28 2013
Shocker—Most Americans Think the Feds are Too Powerful
Vicki E. Alger
A new Gallup poll finds that 54 percent of Americans say the federal government has “too much power.” Just three years ago most Americans believed that federal power was “about right.” What changed?
The folks at Gallup don’t think the recent IRS and Department of Justice scandals had a measurable impact on their polling results. Still, as my colleague Charlotte Hays recently noted, a common theme throughout the Obama administration is the control of information. Frighteningly, that compulsion doesn’t stop with those two agencies.
Flying relatively beneath the radar are efforts by the Department of Education to collect a ton of personal information about schoolchildren and their families. You might have heard about Common Core national standards, which some on the right think is a super idea. In a nutshell, states agreed to adopt nationalized academic standards in exchange for federal cash (which, of course, is just redistributed money from state taxpayers minus the Washington handler’s fee).
Leaving aside the fact that there’s no evidence that Washington bureaucrats know how to educate children, state lawmakers leaped onto the gravy train before really looking at the fine print. As the Heartland Institute’s Joy Pullman explained, in February ED released a report with some chilling implications for student and family privacy:
Previous FERPA [Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act] interpretations required data collectors to identify students by random numbers. No one knows what personal data the Common Core tests will collect, because those tests have yet to be written and released. But this information mother-lode has to come from somewhere. Since the tests are being written by private organizations, although entirely funded so far by the federal government, no one can do a public records request to find out. In short, the government wants to collect a dossier on every child, containing highly personal information, without asking permission or even notifying parents.
Those dossiers, or “programmatic portfolios” as ED calls them (here p. 94, and here p. 48), could contain such information as students’ disciplinary records, family income, health history, religious affiliation, and voting history, Pullman explained. In 2011 ED amended FERPA, including provisions relating to personally identifiable information (PII). And who will have access to this information? Well, just about anybody based on the revised statutes:
[C]ontractors, consultants, volunteers, or other parties to whom an educational agency or institution has outsourced institutional services or functions…may be considered school officials with legitimate educational interests in students’ education records. …We agree that it is preferable to obtain consent before disclosing PII from education records… Nonetheless, Congress explicitly provided in FERPA that for certain purposes, PII from education records may be disclosed without consent. (here pp. 75607-75608)
Another example of how Washington puts our hard-earned tax dollars to work—against us. Thankfully, a lawsuit has been filed. A handful of states are also considering legislation to strengthen personal privacy rights. Even better, in response to the fed’s overreach by nationalizing academic standards state lawmakers are rediscovering their constitutional authority over education and rejecting Common Core. Best of all, a growing number of parents are also saying “No” to federal intrusion by opting their children out of Common Core tests well before they’re even administered.