All posts by Greg Roth

June 12: This week in data legislation

Writing on The Census Project blog, Terri Ann Lowenthal recounts the beating Census took in the House recently, when the Appropriations committee attached the dreaded Poe amendment and cut more than $200 million from the bureau’s budget request. On the Senate side, things look a slightly better for the Bureau, even if that isn’t saying much considering the House’s apparent view of the Census.

APDU Board member Steve Pierson lays out some of the concerns with the House’s action relative to the National Center for Education Statistics. A bill (HE 4366, “SETRA”) passed in May could affect the stature of the agency – one move is to ditch the presidential appointment of the NCES commissioner, transferring that authority to another already existing office (IES). It’s unclear what the Senate plans to do with their version of the SETRA bill.

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission released a report that data brokers (private sector companies who collect massive amounts of big data) are operating without transparency.  That FTC report recommends that Congress enact legislation that requires the companies to disclose more information about themselves and the data they collect. According to a spokesperson at the Direct Marketing Assn, what the report doesn’t do is find actual harm to consumers.

In Vermont, a new law requires the state’s chief performance officer to oversee the collection of a variety of measures, such as median household income, the percent of adults who smoke, and the percent of the population living in poverty.

At the local level, New York City Council members passed a bill that would require the Department of Education to publish demographic and academic information about co-located schools. The required statistics would include breakdowns of each school by race and ethnicity, English language learners, students with special needs, and students eligible for free or reduced price lunch. According to the legislation, the academic data must include state exam scores. The Department of Education [note: assuming the story means the NY Dept of Ed] has expressed support for the law, as did the charter sector.

Finally, what does the new DATA Act mean? Find out through an APDU webinar on Weds June 25 (rescheduled from last month).

Is your group working on data-related legislation? Please send along any tips or stories to

Thompson discusses ACS: mandatory vs. voluntary

Census Bureau Director John Thompson delivered the morning keynote on the final day of last week’s Council for Community and Economic Research’s (C2ER) 54th Annual Conference.

As part of his remarks, Thompson discussed the American Community Survey and the implications of the survey being made voluntary versus remaining mandatory. You can watch a  video of his comments here, which includes an analysis of the responses rates and data quality of each scenario:

You can access Thompson’s slides from the keynote.

Thompson addressed concerns about the ACS’s future in a blog post on his Director’s Blog at Census.

Data legislation: Census, cybersecurity, and state-level privacy

This week, APDU joined its partners in the Workforce Data Quality Campaign for a private briefing on the Hill, voicing its support for continued commitment to education and workforce data.

According to the Census Project, next week the House will consider action that could cut the Census Bureau budget by 9%, including $56 million from the Census 2020 planning. CP has posted three factsheets to help you voice your support for a fully-funded Census.

On the data protection front, some feel that members of Congress will likely move forward on bipartisan cybersecurity legislation this summer. Past efforts to develop comprehensive cybersecurity laws have stalled on the Hill. But, the increasing number and severity of breaches have continued to keep the issue in the news, as last year’s publicized breach at retail giant Target demonstrated.

At the state level, a Utah representative is looking to give greater protection to student data collected by the state’s public education institutions. The legislation is called the “Student Privacy Act”, which would provide parents more control of the information that schools collect on their students. It’s set to be considered in the 2015 session.

Finally, in California, a state Senator is pushing legislation to ban public agencies from sharing data they collect with private entities, prohibiting license plate scanners from coming onto private property without consent and making it easier for privacy lawsuits to be filed against data collectors. Law enforcement officials say the data collection is invaluable for tracking down stolen cars and catching fugitives. Privacy advocates and lawmakers say the fast-growing private industry is not only ripe for conflicts of interest but downright invasive.

In non-legislative news, turned five years old this week. Happy Birthday!

Data takes center stage in Washington DC

It’s been a busy week in data-related issues in Washington DC:

The Census Project looks at where Census FY2015 funding levels stand after the House Appropriations Committee markup last week. Terri Ann Lowenthal has broken out some of the numbers. The revised budget goes to the full House for a vote on May 28.

On Wednesday, May 7th, the House approved the Strengthening Education through Research Act (H.R. 4366), which “will reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act and improve the federal research structure to better provide states with access to useful data that can help raise student achievement levels in the classroom”. Among other things, the bill specifically reauthorizes the Institute of Education Sciences, which includes the National Center for Education Statistics and three other centers.

On May 9th, President Obama enacted the nation’s first open data law, The Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act of 2014. The DATA Act requires federal agencies to publish their spending data in a standardized, machine-readable format that the public can access through APDU will be hosting a webinar on Wednesday, May 28th, “What The New DATA Act Means for Data Users” as part of Public Data University’s Special Topics / 301 series.

On the same day as the DATA Act signing, the Administration issued its new US Open Data Action Plan, calling for agencies to solicit feedback from government data users to improve the quality of government data and prioritize its release to the public. Information Week examines the four actions aimed at advancing the usability of open government data. Outside DC, Nashville is latest city to join open data movement.

As cited in last week’s APDU Weekly, the White House released their report Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values. Here’s one take on reactions to the report and another take on why it matters.

Finally, the current draft of the Senate transportation bill “flat funds” the Bureau of Transportation Statistics through 2020. Back in March, APDU board member Steve Pierson from ASA took a look at the budget trends of the mid-size statistical agencies. BTS in particular has not seen a marked increase in the past decade.

What The New DATA Act Means for Data Users

Part of APDU’s Public Data University “301 – Special Topics” series.

Heralded as the nation’s first open data law, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act) requires agencies to publish government spending information in standardized machine-readable open data.

Specifically, the law calls on the Treasury Department and the White House to establish government-wide standards for financial data; directs all agencies to use those standards for their reporting requirements; and expands the accountability platform developed by the Recovery Act’s Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (RATB) from stimulus spending to all spending.

data_actProponents say the law will improve accountability to taxpayers and  provide tools to reduce waste and abuse. What does this new law mean for data users? What changes or improvements can be expected? Does this law mean more open and public data reform is on the way?


  • Hudson Hollister, Executive Director, Data Transparency Coalition
  • Others TBA

What The New DATA Act Means for Data Users  (301 Series)

Free, APDU & C2ER members and LMI Institute member states
$50, nonmembers


Georgetown U. researchers discuss online jobs ads data

Last week, Jeff Strohl and Tamara Jayasundera from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University presented findings from their just-released report on online jobs ads data, as part of the Public Data University 301-level special topic series.

During the Q&A portion of the webinar, an attendee asked a question about changes in skill requirements for specific occupations. Listen to Jeff and Tamara discuss the question.

APDU members can access the full recording and powerpoint in the Member Area.

APDU joins Friends of BLS, expresses concerns about recent budget actions

APDU joined a group of concerned national organizations, representing the newly formed Friends of BLS, to meet with Justin Gibbons and Stephen Steigleder, staffers for the Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations Subcommittee on April 25 to express our concerns about how recent budget actions have impacted Bureau of Labor Statistics data.  The group recommended a $619.5 million funding level for BLS, slightly above the President’s request, to help BLS reinstate cuts made to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages and the Import/Export Prices Index program.  Others participating in the meeting included the American Statistical Association, Council for Community and Economic Research, International Council of Shopping Centers, and the National Association of Business Economists.

On a related front, the House Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee reported its mark-up of key statistical agencies, including $92.5 million below the President’s request for Census and $12 million below the President’s request for the Bureau of Economic Analysis.  The Census language would require the agency to ask questions about health insurance in the same way the agency has in the past.

Susan Aud discusses CTE stats at NCES

Last week, Susan Aud from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) presented an overview of the agency’s datasets as part of the Public Data University 101-level series on federal data.

During the Q&A portion of the webinar, an attendee asked a question about the new Career/Technical Education (CTE) Statistics system. Listen to Susan discuss what’s available, or read more about them on NCES’s website.

APDU members can access the recording, powerpoint, and reference sheet in the Member Area.