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Governor Quinn Takes Bill Action **Wednesday, June 25, 2014** PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Katie Hickey   
Friday, 27 June 2014 10:09

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today took action on the following bills:

 

Bill No.: HB 4418

An Act Concerning: Local Government

Requires a referendum before a local fire department can be disbanded.

Action: Signed

Effective: Jan. 1, 2015

 

Bill No.: SB 504

An Act Concerning: Local Government

Makes changes to certain Tax Increment Financing districts in Chicago and Naperville.

Action: Signed

Effective: Immediately

 

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Loebsack Opening Statement for the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee Joint Hearing, “How Data Mining Threatens Student Privacy” PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Joe Hand   
Wednesday, 25 June 2014 13:18

Good morning, Chairman Rokita, Chairman Meehan, and Ranking Member Clarke. I’d like to thank you for holding today’s hearing and thank our witnesses for being here.

More than ever before, technology plays an essential role in educating our children. Technology-based educational tools and platforms offer important new capabilities for students and teachers at both the K-12 and university levels.

The increasing number of educational iPad and iPhone apps, online study tools, and engagement programs illustrate the growing abundance of tech resources that are being used to meet students’ individual learning needs.

These educational tools generate tremendous amounts of data that are instrumental in improving a student’s learning experience. Data allows teachers to quickly identify and address gaps in student understanding before they fall behind.  And by making data available to parents, they can track their child’s progress and participate more fully in their education.

Beyond addressing the needs of individual students, data aids schools in their institutional and administrative functions. School and district leaders rely on data to drive improvement and decision-making around curriculum, technology infrastructure, and staffing.

The availability of new types of data also improves researchers’ ability to learn about learning. Data from a student’s experience in technology-based learning platforms can be precisely tracked, opening the door to more accurately understanding how students move through a curriculum, and at greater scale, than traditional education research is able to achieve.

As data systems become more integrated into the learning and teaching process, we are seeing the impact that they can have on students, teachers, administrators, and policymakers. These systems enable teachers, schools, and districts to make more informed decisions to enhance student learning.

Meanwhile, a growing number of online educational services have the ability to enhance learning within the classroom and extend it beyond the school day. Edmodo, which is used by more than 20 million teachers and students worldwide, allows teachers to set up virtual classrooms and then post homework assignments and other content to extend lessons. Khan Academy has more than 5,000 instructional videos and assessments, which allow students of all ages to learn at their own pace in subject areas ranging from pre-algebra to differential equations, from art history to computer science.

With this explosion in online resources, there is a large amount of new data being generated by children using these services, which raises valid privacy concerns.

The privacy of student education records is protected under FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. When those student education records are hosted or analyzed by private companies that are helping districts build data systems to drive improvement, those same FERPA protections still apply.

However, when students use online services like Khan Academy—in school or at home—or when teachers use grade and behavior tracking software on their iPads, all of that data are not necessarily covered by FERPA. In those direct interactions between students and software companies, data are being collected to build user profiles, individualize the learning experience, and track progress, but in the cases where FERPA does not apply, it is not always clear what protections exist to guarantee the privacy of those data and ensure companies are not using them to target advertisements at children.

This committee will hear important testimony today about the value that these tailored technological resources provide to students themselves and the importance of ensuring access to data for teachers and researchers seeking to improve education. We’ll also hear about the need for consistent privacy policies and current efforts to guarantee the security and privacy of student data.

As we examine the privacy concerns prompted by the rapidly growing education technology sector and the information it collects, it’s clear that we must strive to find a balance between privacy and innovation. We must ensure that companies involved in collecting and analyzing student data are not exploiting students’ private information for marketing purposes or financial gain.

Data are an invaluable tool. Data empowers teachers, guides individualized learning, and informs policy. As we consider where improvements are needed in privacy regulations, we must be sure that we do not compromise the value of student data.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.

Thank you very much.

Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats

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Braley Introduces Legislation to Prevent Cuts to 19 Iowa Social Security Offices PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Kirsten Hartman   
Wednesday, 25 June 2014 13:16

Congressman: Cutting the services that Iowa’s seniors rely on is the first step to closing these facilities entirely

Washington, D.C. – Days after joining over 100 lawmakers to express their opposition to cuts to vital services at Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices, Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today introduced legislation that would delay those cuts—arguing that SSA has done nothing to illustrate equivalent access to Iowa’s seniors or cost savings.

Beginning August 2014, SSA will no longer issue Social Security number printouts in its field offices.  In addition, beginning October 2014, SSA field offices will stop providing benefit verification letters, except in emergency situations.  Many seniors rely on these verification letters for a variety of services. Those requesting this information would be able to do so only online or over the phone. Last year alone, 11 million Americans used SSA offices to request this information.

Braley’s Seniors’ Access to Social Security Act would prevent those cuts for one year, during which time Braley will seek verification that the proposed service cuts will not adversely affect Iowa’s seniors and will save taxpayers money.

“They’re cutting services that tens of thousands of Iowa’s seniors access every year, and there’s no indication it will save a penny—that makes absolutely no sense to me,” Braley said. “Iowa has one of the highest ratios of seniors in the country, many of whom don’t have internet access. The Administration needs to explain how those seniors will still have access to the services they need and how it will save money—and until they do that I’ll remain strongly opposed to cutting services at these facilities.”

 

“Making unwarranted and extensive service cuts to these offices moves us closer to permanently shuttering them, and leaving Iowa’s seniors with nowhere to go,” Braley added.

Iowa’s 19 SSA field offices are located in Cedar Rapids, Decorah, Dubuque, Marshalltown, Waterloo, Burlington, Coralville, Davenport, Ottumwa, Council Bluffs, Creston, Des Moines, Ames, Carroll, Ft. Dodge, Mason City, Sioux City, Spencer, and Storm Lake.

Braley’s legislation has been endorsed by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare, Social Security Works, and The Strengthen Social Security Coalition.

Over 450,000 Iowa seniors received Social Security benefits in 2013.

A link to Braley’s legislation is available online HERE.    

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Braley Meets with Erin Peat of Dubuque about Stalled Congolese Adoptions PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Kirsten Hartman   
Wednesday, 25 June 2014 13:03

Congressman discusses issue faced by hundreds of U.S. families encountering needless delays in adoptions from the Congolese government

Washington, D.C. –Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today met with Erin Peat of Dubuque to discuss stalled adoptions between American families and their children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  Erin and her husband Michael Peat legally adopted two children from the DRC, however in the final stage of their lengthy adoption process, the DRC issued a moratorium on the ‘exit letters’ necessary to finalize their adoptions and bring their children home to the United States.

Braley also met with families from Clear Lake, Bettendorf, and West Des Moines who all face similar delays.

“Meeting with Erin and hearing first-hand about the red tape separating her family makes the issue even more important to me,” Braley said. “I cannot imagine being separated from my three children, and I will continue doing everything possible to ensure families like Erin’s are reunited as quickly as possible.”

Last month, the State Department announced that the Congolese government would issue a total of 62 ‘exit letters’—15 of which would be issued to American families—but the overwhelming majority of U.S. families have received no update from the Congolese government and their adoptions remain in limbo.

Approximately 460 families have had their adoptions suspended, but the Peats are one of only about 50 families that have had it occur at such a late stage in the process. They were granted their adoption visa by the United States. However, the DRC suddenly refused to issue exit letters, which is the final step allowing families to bring their children to the United States.

Braley has written the Congolese Prime Minister, the Congolese Ambassador to the United States, and Secretary of State John Kerry calling for a resolution to this issue.

 

 

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How to Overcome Excuses PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 24 June 2014 15:17
6 Tips to Gain the Edge & Meet Your Goals

Great people throughout history often fail, quite miserably, before finally reaching their goals, says international business strategist Dan Waldschmidt.

“Van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime; Winston Churchill lost every public election until becoming prime minister at age 62; Henry Ford went bankrupt five times; Albert Einstein was a terrible student and was expelled from school; Sigmund Freud was booed from a stage,” says Waldschmidt, author of “Edgy Conversations: How Ordinary People Achieve Outrageous Success,” (www.EdgyConversations.com).

“Ideas, brilliance, genius – they all mean nothing without the guts, passion and tenacity necessary to make your dream a reality. But often, people fall back on excuses and give up on trying to reach their goals.”

Most of us have dreams, and many of us have big ones, but few of us actually see them through, he says.

He offers six tricks for jumping off the excuse train and forge the path to your goals.

•  Avoid the need to blame others for anything. Mean, small-minded people know that they suck. That’s why they are so cranky and eager to point out others’ mistakes. They hope that by causing others to feel inadequate, everyone will forget about how woefully off the mark their own performance is. Don’t blame anyone, for any reason, ever. It’s a bad habit.

•  Stop working on things that just don’t matter. Not everything needs to be done in place of sleep. If you work for a boss, then you owe them solid time. You can’t cut that out. You can, however, cut out television time, meetings and anything else that gets in the way of achieving your goals. Replace entertainment with activity toward your goal.

•  Refuse to let yourself wallow in self-doubt. You’re alive to succeed. Stop comparing your current problems to your last 18 failures. They are not the same. You are not the same. Here’s something to remember: Your entire life has been a training ground for you to capture your destiny right now. Why would you doubt that? Stop whining. Go conquer.

•  Ask yourself, “What can I do better next time?” And then do it next time. If you spend a decade or two earnestly trying to be better, that’s exactly what will happen. The next best thing to doing something amazing is not doing something stupid. So learn from your mistakes and use the lessons to dominate.

•  Proactively take time to do things that fuel your passion. Exercise is a great example. Living in the moment requires you to live at peak performance. A huge part of mental fitness is physical fitness. A sparring or running partner is a great way to refresh physical competition. Physical activity accelerates mental motivation.

•  Apologize to yourself and those around you for having a bad attitude. Do this once or twice and you’ll snap out of your funk pretty fast. When you start genuinely apologizing for being a bad influence on those around you, you learn to stop whining and start winning.

About Dan Waldschmidt

Dan Waldschmidt is the author of “Edgy Conversations: How Ordinary People Achieve Outrageous Success,” (www.EdgyConversations.com). He is an international business strategist, speaker, author and extreme athlete. His consulting firm solves complex marketing and business strategy problems for savvy companies all over the world.

 
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