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Wasatch School Board "revised" FERPA Privacy Law

Some of you have asked for this FERPA revision attachment that our school board passed on Thursday in Heber City and that school districts all over Utah will be passing unless parents stop them.

I will give some context.

FERPA laws are very important. They protect families and students against school-originated identity theft or federal intrusions on personal data. It used to be that schools were only allowed to give student data to doctors in emergencies, to other schools when students moved, etc.

Thursday, our Wasatch school board "revised" FERPA laws #8 and #9. They didn't allow for the usual 30-day review. They did it fast and they tried to keep it quiet because they knew parents would freak out, as I am.

This FERPA change by our school board troubles me greatly. It must be overturned. The board broke their own laws that state the board must include the public on major policy changes in the district. They tried hard to keep it a secret, speaking in code at the school board meeting, never uttering the words "parental consent" or "privacy law changes" out loud. But a few of us were watching and we asked for a copy of this, which they legally had to provide if someone asked.

Parents are the number one authority over kids. For a school district to override parental consent law is very serious. I don't want kids being tracked throughout their lives as people are tracked and pressured in countries that aren't free.

By changing FERPA law this week, our board deleted parental authority. Now anyone can come in and get student data if they use the language "for educational research." And the federal government doesn't even have to use that language. (See attachment).

Here's where the Common Core Initiative comes in. Common Core's agenda is making academic standards common across the nation and centralizing education and data collection on all kids. All but a handful of states signed on to Common Core in 2009, hoping for grant money in exchange for their sovereignty. Schools in Utah began implementing Common Core this year, and it'll be all fully implemented by 2015.

The Common Core Initiative literally asks states to get rid of state laws that stand in the way of its goals. Common Core doesn't just collect academic data for educational research and local schools as we used to do with testing. This is longitudinal, personalized, individual data, including health information, age, name, skills, psychological health, and more. It's labeled only academic testing, but the result is much more than simply comparing reading and math scores.

If you read about "Common Core" from the proponents' point of view, minus the legal documents, it sounds like manna from heaven. But notice that proponents do not back up pretty words with evidence. There's no proof, for example, that standards are higher or internationally benchmarked. It's experimental; for example, CCSS will dump a lot of classic literature requirements from 6th to 12 grades to make space for more info-texts, in English classes. My daughter says her 9th grade math this year is just a repeat of 8th grade. But proponents claim it's "rigorous" and getting kids "college ready" and "globally competitive." There's no proof anywhere that "we still have local control," sadly. There's not been a Constitutional analysis; in fact, the lawyer at the U.S.O.E. told me there was "no point" in having freedom to disagree; the point was to be in-common, and to agree, under Common Core. Many, like this lawyer, falsely equate unity under mandates with unity out of free will.

The proponents of Common Core say that this is a state-led program. The feds funded every single group, whether state based or D.C. based, that promoted Common Core, that wrote the standards, or that developed the test. Common Core promotion has been funded by the U.S. Dept of Education grants but Common Core won't pay for its implementation or maintenance. They "allow" states to add to the standards, up to 15%. But I wrote to the test developer and they wrote back to say the test does not use any of the states' 15% input to write the test. We'll only be tested on the federal standards.

The test itself is like the ACT or SAT, except it's given to little kids, too, and taken multiple times a year, every year --and it's not just an academic test but also a data-collection strategy for the feds. (This is where FERPA revisions come in to play).

If you want evidence that what I'm saying is real, google and read: "The Cooperative Agreement Between the U.S. Dept of Education and the SBAC" (Utah is bound by the SBAC, the Common Core's testing arm). Mandates, micromanaging and compliance rules are all you'll see: the feds own the SBAC tests. They oversee, synchronize and triangulate the tests, and there is no provision for keeping the feds away from the data; quite the opposite. And there's no voice for Utah to amend the federal standards. (We can amend Utah's current Core, but so what? Teachers teach to the test and it's based on the unamendable, federal CCSS.)

Common Core is a perversion of the democratic process: the proponents used Governors, school boards, and superintendents to sign states up. Legislatures were bypassed. The public was bypassed. Few knew anything about Common Core until it was already adopted. There was not any cost analysis done, because the congressional budget office was bypassed and the huge implementation costs were handed to the states. Why did states sign up? Were states searching for national standards and federal advice and the opportunity to give away parental consent in favor of federal data collection? Nope.

The feds dangled the carrot of huge federal monies in front of them: Race To The Top, they called that grant. Yet Utah got zero money when we applied. And states who never joined Common Core and SBAC are getting the same federal education dollars Utah is getting.

What happened was this: the grant, called Race To The Top, gave out points to increase eligibility, like a lottery. States got more points if they agreed to adopt Common Core standards (---FYI the standards hadn't even been written when Utah agreed to implement them). Utah also got more points for agreeing to join the testing consortium. So we did both. Well, we never got the money. Other states won it. But we got stuck --and are still stuck, three years later-- with membership in Common Core and the SBAC testing consortium.

Under SBAC testing, Utah must submit to any decision of the other states, over costs and technology, by consensus, totally diluting our voice. But worse-- when push comes to shove, we have to obey the lead state, which is Washington State. Giving other states our power over our own education is no better than giving it to the feds directly. Yet, we did that, too. The feds control the standards and we have to teach to those standards. If the feds want to include any useless, strange or wrong teaching and call it "raising standards" they may do that and Utah has no voice. None.

Utah's current standards are what the USOE calls the "Utah Core Standards" but that will never be on the common test, so teachers won't be motivated to teach it once the testing begins in 2014. Teachers are going to be motivated by merit pay and lost tenure to get their students to get high scores on the test, and they'll follow the federal (CCSS) standards more and more closely. The USOE is so proud to announce that the state school board can amend the "Utah Core Standards" by a majority vote of the board, but they fail to tell people that there are two sets of standards, and you can't amend the federal set.

Utah would be greatly empowered if every one of us remembered two things:

1. The Constitution was written by people who had government oppression fresh on their minds. They divided state and federal powers for that reason. Because of our inspired U.S. Constitution, the feds have no Constitutional authority over education; states are sovereign over education. Reread that last sentence and remember it.

(There is no law that says the feds can withhold our tax dollars from us if we don't jump through their hoops.)

2. The GEPA law and other federal laws (General Education Provisions Act) protect states from federal intrusions even further. They specify that the feds can't control, supervise,direct or in any way put their demands on states' educational decisions. It's up to us to keep the feds from bullying us. This week, it was up to the school board.

Our local school board does not seem to believe in these two points. While they were passing this FERPA deletion of parental authority on Thursday night, we who understood what was going on shook our heads, "no," pleading (we weren't allowed to talk) for them to not do this, at least to allow a 30-day review. Under their breath, they muttered, "Well, we can't NOT pass it," and "It's a federal law." --What?

Did they believe they had to obey a federal request to remove parental authority over children just to make it easier for the federal agenda of testing and data control to become reality? Whether this request came from Common Core (via the Governors' group or other federally funded groups) or directly from the U.S. Dept. of Education, is irrelevant. Locals have control and authority over educational issues.

At some point, our school board has to be courageous and say no. The buck must stop here.

Whether the board understands or believes all I've written to you tonight is not important; what is important is that they understand that they broke their own law that stated they must work closely with the public and that they had no authority to give away parental authority.

They refused a public 30-day review. They failed to provide copies of the document I've attached here. (While they flashed other topics on a huge screen --school store merchandise, landscaping plans, etc.-- they left the screen blank when they brought up "Ferpa additions eight and nine," and passed it so fast that nobody would have understood what just happened, unless they'd been studying it.)

I'm meeting with a member of the school board this week. I'm going to learn and execute the appeals process, whatever it may be, to get this overturned. If that fails, and if persuasion and reason and evidence and the voice of many other citizens and parents fail, then I feel we parents must sue the school board for handing over parental consent authority in favor of easy access for the federal government -- which the board did, ironically, without getting any parent's consent.


BY CHRISTEL SWASEY   04/25/2012



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