Senate Moves Forward on Data Collection Legislation
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The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions approved legislation in December
to reauthorize the mission of the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED’s) research arms, the National
Center for Education Statistics and the Institute for Education Sciences (IES). The Advancing
Research in Education Act, S. 3392, was passed out of committee with a vote of 20-1. ESRA was last
reauthorized in 2002.

The legislation includes a provision that would require ED to study alternative ways of calculating
student poverty for the purpose of allocating funds in coordination with the Census
Bureau. Currently, many schools and districts use eligibility for Free and Reduced-Price meals, but
that data has become less complete as schools shift to universal free meals under the federal
Community Eligibility Program or similar State and local initiatives. The timeline for replacing the
current data sources is unclear, however. The legislation requires a report not later than 2 years
after the date of enactment and every three years thereafter, indicating there is no hard deadline.
Since it may take some time to identify an alternative and it would have to be implemented through
legislation, likely a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). While
ESEA is due for reauthorization, there is not currently movement in the House or Senate to do so,
which means any change could be several years out.

Additionally, the bill authorizes grants to States to increase capacity for research and development,
and some updates to the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) program. IES would be
required to increase the participation of researchers from historically Black colleges and universities,
tribal colleges and universities, and other minority-serving institutions. Terminology would be
updated to align with changes in law, specifically within the Perkins Career and Technical Education
Act, and some new data points on workforce would be added to the information collection

Unusually, the Committee sent two versions of the legislation to the full Senate. One includes an
amendment that would deny research funds to any school, local educational agency, State
educational agency, or institution of higher education that “allows” antisemitism to occur in
violation of the Civil Rights Act. But other Senators expressed concern about the use of the word
“allows,” arguing that it was overbroad and subject to misinterpretation, which would result in
illegal restrictions on free speech. A second version of the language which replaced the word
“promote” with “support” was later approved and also sent to the full Senate for consideration –
which will likely happen in early 2024.

About the Author

Julia Martin is an attorney with the Washington, DC law firm The Bruman Group, PLLC. Established in 1980, the Firm is nationally recognized for its federal education regulatory and legislative practice, providing legal advice regarding compliance with all major federal education programs as well as the federal grants management requirements, including the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR). In addition, they work with agencies on federal spending flexibility, allowability, policies and procedures, audit defense and resolution and legislative updates. The Firm provides government relations services for the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators (NAESPA).