Federal Legislation
May 28, 2010

H.R. 5024 “Measuring and Evaluating Trends for Reliability, Integrity, and Continued Success Act (METRICS)”

Action Requested:
No action is requested at this time. HSLDA will continue to monitor this bill and will send out an action e-lert if the bill comes up for a hearing.

Summary:
H.R. 5024 will provide federal grants through the Secretary of Education to improve statewide education databases. HSLDA’s concern with H.R. 5024 is that detailed records of children from early childhood until graduate school or entering the workforce would be collected without any clear retention policies in place.

Status:

4/14/2010Introduced
4/14/2010Referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor

Sponsor: Representative Rush Holt (NJ-12)

Bill Summary and Status H.R. 5024

1 Cosponsor

HSLDA’s Position:
Oppose.

Talking Points:

H.R. 5024 could lead to national databases: While this bill provides federal grants for statewide databases, not a national database, states will only be able to receive these grants if their databases have the ability to exchange data “between States utilizing standard data structures, standards, formats, and data definitions.” This results in a de facto national database, even if it is not run by the federal government. Privacy advocates, as well as homeschoolers and private schools, are very concerned about moves toward massive databases. Even if these databases only include the records of public school students, homeschool students who enroll in a public school class would likely also be included in these databases.

H.R. 5024 increases school databases to include information that is unrelated to education: Page 5, Section (A) of the bill requires states that receive these federal grants to expand databases “across the prekindergarten to higher education and workforce pipeline…linking State data systems with early learning, postsecondary education, workforce, social services, and other critical State agency data systems.” The statewide databases will also be linked with juvenile justice, military services, migrant student records, and parental education and literary status. All of this information is unrelated to student educational information and demonstrates that these databases will be repositories of a great deal of detailed information about each student and family.

H.R. 5024 could jeopardize a child’s privacy: H.R. 5024’s requirement for statewide databases has the potential to increase the risk of identity theft or even put children and their families in danger. The bill has no time limits on the retention of information on students in the databases. Without these time limit retention policies, a homeschool student may take one class at a public school, and then have his or her personal information stored in the database indefinitely. Additionally, the bill only requires a minimum of privacy regulations on the statewide databases. The bill only requires that states protect student privacy by following the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), which is only enforced by withholding federal funds. A state may violate the provisions of FERPA, and only face a possible loss of certain federal funds. This would be small consolation to a family or student who has lost sensitive personal information.

H.R. 5024 could threaten parental rights: With these federal grants, states will be able to disclose student information to state or local agencies responsible “for early childhood education, postsecondary education, workforce development, unemployment insurance, child health and welfare, mental health, juvenile justice, or child proactive services” without parental consent. A homeschool student may enroll in one public school class, and then have student specific data and personal family information shared with a host of state and local government agencies.

Conclusion: Federally funded databases seem to demonstrate a “big brother” philosophy of monitoring and tracking young citizens. Such databases would be extremely expensive to run and maintain. Currently, the states, and federal government track disaggregated data on students, leaving no clear reason for why there is a need for more detailed, personally identifiable data kept on students.

 Other Resources

Letter from Congressman John Kline (MN) to U.S. Department of Education

Fordham University Study on State Databases

“Student Data Systems, Unite!”