CHEYENNE — Parents and others worried about federal intrusion into the state's education system and the security of student data may find some comfort in two bills approved this week by a legislative committee.
Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, told fellow Select Committee on Education Accountability members he sponsored both bills on behalf of concerned constituents.
"All of us have received a lot of feedback during this interim about federal intrusion or the potential therein," Landen said of one bill during Tuesday's meeting. "Do we need it? Perhaps not, but the bill gives assurance that we're serious about it."
The bill adds to the state's education program law a provision specifying that the state Board of Education has authority to develop an education program without excessive oversight and does not have authority to commit the state to federal oversight or regulation.
Landen's other bill requires a data security plan to be developed and imposed by the directors of the departments of Education and Enterprise Services.
The bill contains language adopted by other states to address student data privacy concerns.
Landen said his constituents have told him they are worried about the confidentiality of student data.
Since the committee's job is education accountability, it was appropriate to bring the bill before members for their consideration, he said.
Sen. Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie, said the committee could use the bill to create the state's own privacy act, incorporating language from the Federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.
Rep Mike Madden, R-Buffalo, said information in a recent state attorney general's opinion convinced him the state doesn't need a new secrecy law.
But Rep. Mary Throne, D-Cheyenne, said the bill provides some state process the state doesn't have now, such as identifying who in a school district may have access to student data.
"We don't have a process in place for regulating our own shop," she said.
Landen agreed. He said he tells his concerned constituents that federal laws are in place to protect the student information, but they are not sure what that means or what the federal law does.
"I'd like to put something in our statutes that we take this very seriously and we do have protocols in place," Landen said.
The committee passed the secrecy bill with the intention of working on language when the budget session opens in February.