How Laws are Created: Congress’ Role in Destroying the Republic

Congress’s role in governing our republic includes the responsibility to create necessary and proper laws within the authoritative boundaries of constitutional powers. But the current process by which a bill becomes a law desecrates the Founder’s ideals. The “institutional defenses” built into the constitution have been eroded by the malicious use of deception and disregard for ethical principles.

“The most significant danger old republics like ours face is not the sudden assault of an aspiring autocrat but the slow erosion of their cultural and institutional defenses.” The Fall of Rome and the Lessons for America

Here’s How A Recent Data Bill Went Through Congress

“Laws begin as ideas” so they can come from any of us, ideally. But in today’s reality, it’s more likely a special interest group will solicit one of our representatives to move their proposal into law. Enter (in this case) the technology industry — through the Data Summit and the Data Quality Campaign that was launched in 2005.

By 2008, Idaho was the last state in the nation to have a longitudinal data collection system “that provides individual level student data across multiple years from grades K through 12 and into postsecondary education.” (Report to the Idaho Legislature)

With the Great Recession holding the country’s attention, both the Bush and Obama administrations loosened a major privacy law allowing expansion of data collection and its use in “research” on a Human Capital Development Data System.

FERPA: Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act

Acceptance of federal stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, Recovery Act) served as an incentive for completion of the project to collect, share, and link student data between agencies and across states.

FERPA has yet to be changed back to requiring parental notification and consent to share student data.

One strategy used to put these data collection systems in place was to NOT have open discussions or public debates.

State Longitudinal Data Systems Best Practices included “EFFECTIVE” Communications. In this case that means NOT allowing “open forums.” It means communicating the right message.

The “do not engage” practice moved the project along at the state level. Next up was federal legislation, which requires the kind of broad support that only money can buy these days.

2009-

The messaging needed to be just right. The “best practice” of not exposing an idea to too many people, or too much scrutiny, was taken to the next level — to both houses of congress with both political parties involved. The adoption of a federal data consolidation bill began by asking for a commission to study the idea. It was approved by a Voice Vote.

They were only asking for a study to be done. … No big deal.

A Voice Vote means there is no record of individual votes.

Three Months Later, The Report Was Released

D.C. Think Tanks and other organizations rejoiced! The public remained uninformed.

It didn’t take long for the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking bill to emerge.

Note: Senator Patty Murray mentioned “federal agencies” — plural. This is no small deal. This is huge!

The response?

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill under suspension of rules —by Voice Vote!

That was on November 15, 20172017 pre-holidays —and Twitter lit-up in protest.

Throughout the holiday season education activists watched for movement of the bill in the Senate. Pre-Christmas had become a favored time for education bills to quickly become law. This time nothing happened. Had it died in committee? NOPE!

DECEMBER 19, 2018….2018.…real close to Christmas….and it passed by Unanimous Consentthe Senate’s version of a Voice Vote (no roll call, no individual record).

December 20, 2018 —Back to the House.

DECEMBER 21 —the Friday before Christmas with a Lame Duck Congress at 4:14 PM—the House did a roll call vote TO SUSPEND THE RULES. The bill known as HR4174 (FEPA – Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking) officially passed both houses of congress. But the story doesn’t end. Congress recessed. 

The bill did not go immediately to the president’s desk. If it had and he did not sign it within 10 days, this bill would have been killed by what is called a “pocket veto.” But if Congress is in session and the president does not sign the bill within 10 (working?) days, it becomes law.

JANUARY 2, 2019FEPA HR4174 (sister to Washington Sen. Murray’s S.2046) went to the president’s desk.

Today is January 14th. My senators are not answering their phones at 4:14 PM. Nor is the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee (the one that slipped this bill out of committee a year after activist had eyes on it).

Is this acceptable?

We might expect some bad behavior from the liars in the House, but Senators should act with more integrity. 

So, WHAT’S In The BILL? Better question: What is not in the bill?

The public is being told that the recommendations made by the FEPA Commission were followed. They were not. Data privacy recommendations were ignored.

“The Commission’s recommendations for improved data access and strong privacy protections rely heavily on the establishment of the National Secure Data Service [NSDS]. … The Commission envisions that the National Secure Data Service will operate an effective and efficient service that can be held accountable by policymakers and the American public.” The Promise of Evidence-Based Policymaking

Here is what the public should have heard debated.

“Even where data has been de-identified it is still possible to combine certain data sets with others to determine extensive amounts of personal information.”

“…there are real challenges to ensure that the creation of the NSDS does not create a centralized repository of data on Americans, like the proposed National Data Center which was broadly opposed by the public and led to the enactment of the Privacy Act.” Electronic Privacy Information Center

It is a sad day for the republic.

When it comes to Open Government, the Sunlight Foundation asked this about a Trump White House.

“Congress is the ultimate watchdog. Will Congress provide aggressive oversight?”

If Congress is the ultimate watchdog, the republic is in deep trouble.

What Debate?

The marketing campaign to FIX No Child Left Behind began back in January with announcements that there would be debate.

A draft of the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015 was released and many newspapers and education associations picked up the story including the American Educational Research Association.

“The draft bill contains several provisions related to research. If enacted, the bill would task the Institute of Education Sciences with evaluating Title I activities. In addition, state plans submitted to the Department of Education would be approved unless the department presented “substantial high-quality education research” that demonstrated that a plan would be ineffective or inappropriate. The bill does not define high-quality education research.

Alexander has made it clear that he hopes to have a substantial discussion about ESEA.”

Discussion? Debate? Both are important and citizens should have been included to help shape and direct the debate about “fixing” the law. After-all, we were the ones who were subjected to the consequences of bad ideas being passed by congress and signed into law, in this case, by then President Bush. And there was never an official parental complaint process!

But instead of the anticipated discussion, Senator Alexander immediately directed “the debate” to the topic of Testing and Accountability while avoiding the topic of national standards themselves by pacifying people with his standard “no national school board” meaningless rhetoric. And the marketers changed the law’s name to get away from the identifying language of the controversial Common Core Initiative (College or Career Ready). The Every Child Achieves Act proved to be more palatable.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 4.32.20 PMHow did the so-called debate go? Both the House and Senate bills to replace NCLB maintained the yearly standardized testing for accountability purposes in math and language arts just like in NCLB. What they did do, to sell this fallacy of test-based accountability again, was shift the responsibility for accountability mechanisms to the States. Does that change the problem with high-stakes testing? No. Resources focused on testing are spent. They can’t be used for other things.

But to appease the arts groups, the Senate threw them a bone.

“By naming music and arts as core subjects in the Every Child Achieves Act, the Senate has acknowledged and begun to address the national problem of the narrowing of the curriculum that has taken place under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for more than a decade now.”

How that will “work” in already underfunded and under-performing schools is questionable but these groups base their feeling of success right now on hope. And they now feel their voices have been heard —one group appeased.

The next topic Alexander approved for a “hearing” was that of Supporting Teachers and School Leaders. Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 4.32.28 PMAfterwards, Senator Murray delivered statements that sounded much like what we have heard for years —expressing things upon which we generally agree.

But in the bill itself, although teacher residency programs are prominent in the “definitions” section, it is other elements of teacher and school leadership development and evaluation that dominate the law. Federal “incentives” for teacher and school leader certification and licensing (aligned with challenging standards), alternative routes to teaching, and “reforming” tenure systems are all included. These things are not supported by research as being effective “to ensure that ever child achieves” —the purpose of the law.

And looking at the bigger picture, both the House and Senate versions claim to be shifting the control to the States. In the very real world of D.C. politics, certain organizations that represent the States stand to greatly increase their influence. Take the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO, chief creators of the Common Core Standards System) for example.

CCSSO has a teacher and principal preparation program ready to go. They have included multiple new elements requiring the expansion of technology and data collection systems including….Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 10.25.04 PMand…Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 10.26.45 PMThey have it under CONTROL. Kept in mind, CCSSO is a non-governmental organization that has no responsibility for being responsive to the public’s desires. They are in no way accountable to us. And they have had their sights set on ESEA reauthorization for years —the same number of years as the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

They have a “new deal” for us and for themselves it looks like. We should debate who’s goals they represent.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 10.34.00 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-19 at 10.34.48 PM

 

 

 

 

 

Did we get to debate any of this? No, it was set in motion years ago with no public participation. Remember, there was no official complaint process for No Child Left Behind and these actions don’t fix that.

No record; no accountability. No debate, only a very controlled dog-and-pony show.

The House and Senate bills passed their respective houses proving that On The Hill, “We mean business on K-12 education.” Those in the education industry know that to be the truth!

Here’s how the market-based reformers see it….

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 9.19.33 PMExpanding charters and retaining annual testing ARE in both bills. But wasn’t that federal mandate at the heart of the problem?

Charters? Never debated. Never research proven to be an improvement over existing public schools. Not a reform.debate

“Streamlining” is a questionable term since programs are actually being CUT and we can’t debate whether or not that is a good thing since we don’t know specifically which ones are being cut other than the School Improvement Grants (which had some useful but never openly discussed results).

Transparency? Increased transparency? I don’t see it. Do they mean like we saw with Common Core<sarc>? Do they mean like we might get if the media covered what is really happening instead of what information is released? Do they mean transparency like we might develop if topics were openly debated in public and the alternative view WAS allowed to be heard?

Have we even had public officials openly debate what was wrong with No Child Left Behind? How do they know if they “fixed” it if the problems was never fully exposed?

Obviously the marketers know what people want to hear; on that, they did their research.

We want to hear that education reform was honestly discussed and debated. But, the question remains…

JFKdebate…what debate?