Parent and education activists say two bills introduced in Congress – one by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) – are likely to increase surveillance of American citizens without their consent and the likelihood of the creation of a comprehensive national database.
The activists – many who have been battling federal control of education for nearly a decade – say the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (FEPA) (H.R. 4174; S. 2046) and the College Transparency Act (CTA) (H.R. 2434; S. 1121) – would create surveillance and tracking systems of American citizens in the name of “transparency” and “program evaluation.”
“Both of these bills would expand and further entrench the administrative swamp that President Trump promised to drain,” says Washington, D.C.-based American Principles Project (APP).
The group, which seeks to protect the constitutional rights of Americans, says the FEPA legislation “would take the first step toward establishing a massive, centralized federal database that would metastasize into a Chinese-style system of government dossiers on citizens.”
APP explains the rationale behind the bill is that data needs to be analyzed in order to determine if government programs are effective.
“But even if we needed a mammoth database to tell us most government programs do not work, there is little likelihood Congress will stop funding useless or damaging programs merely because it has more data,” the organization states, citing the continual funding of the Head Start program.
Under the guise of helping high school students make more informed choices about higher education, the College Transparency Act (CTA) (H.R. 2434) would allow a federal student unit-record system that would track every American citizen who enrolls in higher education.
CTA – introduced in May by Michigan Rep. Paul Mitchell (R) – is purported to enable students to obtain information that could be helpful in making a decision about higher education. Parent and education activists, however, say under the bill the tracking of students will be done without their consent or knowledge, and their data will be matched with that from other federal agencies – such as Social Security and the U.S. military – to form a dossier on each citizen throughout their lives and careers.
APP senior fellow Emmett McGroarty released the following statement:
It’s difficult to imagine legislation more at odds with America’s founding principles than FEPA and CTA. The very thought of allowing the government to surveil and track citizens throughout their lives should be anathema in a free society. Compiling such intrusive dossiers would vastly expand the power of the administrative state, intimidating citizens into silence and further weakening government accountability that in too many cases is already in tatters. Congress must defeat these bills and protect individual freedom.
Indiana parent education activist Erin Tuttle writes at Hoosiers Against Common Core, “It is striking how Congress is completely dysfunctional when it comes to passing legislation that would fulfill their campaign promises to Republican voters, yet pulls it together to pass legislation which does the opposite.”
Tuttle explains a vote on FEPA may be scheduled as early as Wednesday, November 15, and adds:
Instead of dismantling the Administrative State, this bill would allow bureaucrats to propose to collect any data on any citizen on any topic they want, to answer their desired policy questions … [M[any Republican members of Congress have been misled to believe HR4174 would allow better transparency in how federal agencies operate. They owe it to their constituents to be informed on the details of this legislation before the vote.
The activists observe the federal government already has significant amounts of data that have not improved its programs. Additionally, they argue in a letter circulated to various groups and obtained by Breitbart News that the federal government “has demonstrated its utter incompetence at protecting the security of individual data,” and cite the following examples:
- The U.S. Education Department’s recent FAFSA data breach
- The 2015 data theft of personal information – including Social Security numbers of about 21.5 million Americans – from the Office of Personnel Management computer systems
- The 2015 IRS data breach of tax information of more than 100,000 taxpayers
- Concerns about the conduct and security in 2016 of the Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Education Department
“There is no reason to believe an even more enormous trove of data can be secured, or that it will actually change government behavior in any meaningful way,” the activists state.
Murray also teamed up with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) two years ago to engineer the “bipartisan” massive new federal education law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – which Obama signed into law almost immediately after its passage through Congress.