Law & Courts Federal File

FOIA Request Elicits Greetings and Blank Pages

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — March 25, 2008 1 min read

Nearly three months and several follow-up phone calls and e-mails later, Education Week received a response to a request for information on a long-awaited federal commission that will review reading research.

It came in more than two months past the deadline, but was it worth the wait? A look through the 86 pages the Department of Education provided this month should answer that question.

The pages are almost completely blank, except for the “To” and “From” fields, the date and subject lines, and a sentence or two of greetings and pleasantries. That includes pages where the subject line on e-mail exchanges is “Education Week.”

The Education Department says that virtually all the content in the e-mail exchanges requested under the Freedom of Information Act is exempted from disclosure because that content is part of the decisionmaking process.

The decisionmaking process in the case of the Commission on Reading Research has been going on for more than four years. Education Week sought the exchanges after a promised announcement of commission members was stalled by the department in December, the latest of several hurdles since plans for the panel were first disclosed in 2002. (“Plans for Federal Reading Panel Hit a New Roadblock,” Dec. 12, 2007.)

The Bush administration has used the FOIA’s exemption related to “predecisional” communications far more aggressively than previous administrations, according to Lucy Dalglish, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

See Also

For more stories on this topic see our Federal news page.

But the exemption does not allow the blanket redaction, or editing, of correspondence if factual information contained in the communications is considered public.

“They can’t just say we haven’t made up our minds yet; … therefore, anything we communicate about this commission is predecisional,” Ms. Dalglish said. “This doesn’t pass the smell test. … They probably can do it legally, but at some point, I think they owe the taxpayers an explanation of what the heck they’ve been up to.”

Education Week is preparing an appeal.

A version of this article appeared in the March 26, 2008 edition of Education Week

Events

School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Strategies & Tips for Complex Decision-Making
Schools are working through the most disruptive period in the history of modern education, facing a pandemic, economic problems, social justice issues, and rapid technological change all at once. But even after the pandemic ends,
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Education Funding Webinar
From Crisis to Opportunity: How Districts Rebuild to Improve Student Well-Being
K-12 leaders discuss the impact of federal funding, prioritizing holistic student support, and how technology can help.
Content provided by Salesforce.org
Classroom Technology Online Summit Technology & the Pandemic: What’s Next for Schools?
When it comes to the use of technology, what’s next for schools?  Join the discussion to tackle issues surrounding this important question.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts Appeals Court Weighs Idaho Law Barring Transgender Female Students From Girls' Sports
The three-judge federal court panel reviews a lower-court ruling that blocked the controversial statute and said it was likely unconstitutional.
4 min read
Image of a gavel.
Marilyn Nieves/E+
Law & Courts Federal Appeals Court Backs Socioeconomic-Based Admissions Plan for Boston 'Exam Schools'
The court denies an injunction to block the plan for next year and says considering family income in admissions is likely constitutional.
3 min read
Image shows lady justice standing before an open law book and gavel.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Law & Courts U.S. Supreme Court Wary About Extending School Authority Over Student Internet Speech
In arguments, the justices looked for a narrow way to decide a case about the discipline of a cheerleader over a profane Snapchat message.
7 min read
Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington on April 23, 2021.
Members of the U.S. Supreme Court pose for a group photo at the court on April 23. The justices heard arguments Wednesday in a major case on student speech.
Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP
Law & Courts Supreme Court to Weigh When School Board Censure of a Member Violates the First Amendment
The justices will decide an issue that has become more salient as a few board members rant inappropriately on social media.
5 min read
Image of the Supreme Court.
iStock/Getty