Legislative Activity

Student Privacy Protections

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) sent a letter Tuesday, October 22 to Education Secretary Arne Duncan requesting more information about student privacy protections. The letter acknowledged the potential for the collection, analysis, and storage of K-12 students’ academic records, but expressed concerns about putting such sensitive information in private hands. The letter specifically asks the Department of Education (the Department) to submit the following information by November 12:

  • Why the Department made changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations in 2008 and 2011, allowing for the outsourcing of student data, and whether the Department did any analysis on student privacy prior to those changes;
  • Whether the Department assessed the types of information shared with third-party vendors and whether parents should control such information;
  • Whether the Department issued standards or guidelines to schools for protecting the privacy of student records stored and used by private companies;
  • Minimization requirements for unnecessary information held by private companies;
  • Whether and how students and their families have the right to access their personal information held by private companies;
  • What the Department is doing to mitigate any risks involved with third parties holding students’ personal information;
  • Whether and what types of security measures are in place for third parties with access to student data; and
  • Whether and how the Department monitors whether third parties are safeguarding students’ personal information.

Upcoming Hearings:

  • Thursday, October 31: The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee is scheduled to hold a second hearing in the Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization series titled, “Attaining a Quality Degree: Innovations to Improve Student Success.” Stakeholders are invited to submit comments prior to the hearing via email to hea_reauth113@help.senate.gov. We expect additional HEA hearings to be announced in future weeks, covering issues such as financial aid, diversity, teacher preparation, the state and federal roles, and other topics.

Regulatory Activity

College Affordability Proposal

Secretary Duncan noted that the Department will reschedule its planned meetings with higher education stakeholders over the next two months to solicit feedback concerning its college affordability plan proposed in August, including how to develop the new college ratings system proposed in the plan. The Department announced the first forum, which is free and open to the public, will take place November 6 at The California State University-Dominguez Hills in Carson, CA. Stakeholders who wish to present comments at this and other open forums must send an email three days in advance to collegefeedback@ed.gov with the subject “Open Forum Registration.” We expect additional forums to be announced soon on the Department’s College Affordability and Completion Website: www.ed.gov/college-affordability.

Education Department Leadership

President Barack Obama is expected to nominate Ted Mitchell, the CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund and the former president of Occidental College, as his Under Secretary of Education. Mitchell will fill Martha Kanter’s role, who announced her departure in August.

Gainful Employment Regulations

After a delay caused by the government shutdown, the Department’s negotiated rulemaking committee on gainful employment will hold its second and final public meeting from November 18-20.