Law & Courts Federal File

FOIA Request Elicits Greetings and Blank Pages

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — March 25, 2008 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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

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
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Your Questions on the Science of Reading, Answered
Dive into the Science of Reading with K-12 leaders. Discover strategies, policy insights, and more in our webinar.
Content provided by Otus
Mathematics Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Breaking the Cycle: How Districts are Turning around Dismal Math Scores
Math myth: Students just aren't good at it? Join us & learn how districts are boosting math scores.
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
Student Achievement Webinar
How To Tackle The Biggest Hurdles To Effective Tutoring
Learn how districts overcome the three biggest challenges to implementing high-impact tutoring with fidelity: time, talent, and funding.
Content provided by Saga Education

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 Oklahoma Supreme Court Weighs 'Test Case' Over the Nation's First Religious Charter School
The state attorney general says the Catholic-based school is not permitted under state law, while supporters cite U.S. Supreme Court cases.
5 min read
Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond is pictured Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, during an interview in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond, pictured in February, argued April 2 before the state supreme court against the nation's first religious charter school.
Sue Ogrocki/AP
Law & Courts When Blocking Social Media Critics, School Officials Have Protections, Supreme Court Says
The court said public officials' own pages may be "state action," but only when they are exercising government authority.
6 min read
An American flag waves in front of the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Nov. 2, 2020.
An American flag waves in front of the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Nov. 2, 2020.
Patrick Semansky/AP
Law & Courts Oklahoma Nonbinary Student's Death Shines a Light on Families' Legal Recourse for Bullying
Students facing bullying and harassment from their peers face legal roadblocks in suing districts, but settlements appear to be on the rise
11 min read
A photograph of Nex Benedict, a nonbinary teenager who died a day after a fight in a high school bathroom, is projected during a candlelight service at Point A Gallery, on Feb. 24, 2024, in Oklahoma City. Federal officials will investigate the Oklahoma school district where Benedict died, according to a letter sent by the U.S. Department of Education on March 1, 2024.
A photograph of Nex Benedict, a nonbinary teenager who died a day after a fight in a high school restroom, is projected during a candlelight service at Point A Gallery, on Feb. 24, 2024, in Oklahoma City. Federal officials will investigate the Oklahoma school district where Benedict died, according to a letter sent by the U.S. Department of Education on March 1, 2024.
Nate Billings/The Oklahoman via AP
Law & Courts Supreme Court Declines Case on Selective High School Aiming to Boost Racial Diversity
Some advocates saw the K-12 case as the logical next step after last year's decision against affirmative action in college admissions
7 min read
Rising seniors at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology gather on the campus in Alexandria, Va., Aug. 10, 2020. From left in front are, Dinan Elsyad, Sean Nguyen, and Tiffany Ji. From left at rear are Jordan Lee and Shibli Nomani. A federal appeals court’s ruling in May 2023 about the admissions policy at the elite public high school in Virginia may provide a vehicle for the U.S. Supreme Court to flesh out the intended scope of its ruling Thursday, June 29, 2023, banning affirmative action in college admissions.
A group of rising seniors at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology gather on the campus in Alexandria, Va., in August 2020. From left in front are, Dinan Elsyad, Sean Nguyen, and Tiffany Ji. From left at rear are Jordan Lee and Shibli Nomani. The U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 20 declined to hear a challenge to an admissions plan for the selective high school that was facially race neutral but designed to boost the enrollment of Black and Hispanic students.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP