The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has issued a second notice in the Federal Register requesting comments from the public on its revised proposals to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval to expand the categories of student, staff, and operational information sought for its civil rights data collections beginning in the 2013-14 and 2015-16 school years. Generally, these categories include school and district characteristics, discipline, harassment and bullying, early childhood education, pathways to college and career, school finance and teachers and related funding.
In response to its first notice issued in Summer 2013 of its proposal to expand its data collection, ED received almost 300 comments from various members of the public, including school administrators, educators, state educational agencies, local school districts, non-profit and professional organizations, education associations, advocacy groups, parents, and other private citizens.
As identified in its response to these comments (identified as “Response to 60-Day Public Comment” at this link), the comments from parents, private citizens, advocacy groups, and non-profit organizations typically were favorable of the proposed categories to be added to the existing civil rights data collection, including suggestions for still additional categories. However, the comments from school-based personnel, school districts, education-related entities, and education associations were not typically favorable of the expansion areas. These comments identified the increased scope of information to be requested by these new categories, the subsequent additional burden that would be placed on school staff in locating and reporting the responsive information to ED, and the areas in which ED’s Office for Civil Rights might be overstepping its legal authority in regards to asking for data that is not civil rights-related.
Consequently, ED has identified categories of data proposed in the first notice that it is now seeking OMB’s approval through its second notice to make responses mandatory for the 2013-14 school year, such as distance education courses, costs of kindergarten and preschool, ungraded schools, credit recovery and dual enrollment/dual credit programs, student absenteeism, and the presence of law enforcement officers on school campuses.
ED also identified categories of data for which it is now seeking OMB’s approval to make responses mandatory for the 2015-16 school year, such as disciplinary transfers of students, use of corporal punishment, school absenteeism due to discipline, crimes committed on campus, harassment and/or bullying of students based on sexual orientation and religion, numbers and salaries of teaching staff, teaching aides, support staff, and school administrators.
Comments to ED’s second notice are due by January 3, 2014.
[Editor's Note: The original Legal Clips story contained an inadvertent mistake, erroneously stating that ED was seeking OMB's approval to make responses for the 2013-14 school year optional. In fact, ED's proposal is to make responses mandatory. Legal Clips regrets the error and any confusion it may have caused.
The National School Boards Association (NSBA) was among those organizations that submitted comments to ED's first notice, criticizing ED's proposed expansion of the data collection scheme. NSBA's comments "identified several areas of concern with regards to certain proposed new data groups and data categories, as well as proposed revisions to existing data groups and data categories." The comments express NSBA's concerns about: "the specific information regarding the types of data being proposed to be collected, the burden and expense to already financially-strapped public school districts of such proposed collections, the confusion certain requests will generate because of the differences between OCR’s characterization of certain ideas and actions and the actual definitions and obligations, responsibilities, and rights of public school districts as defined by state law, and the areas of proposed data collection for which NSBA believes there is questionable legal jurisdiction to support, or be the basis for, OCR’s inquiries."]