Phase II art

Phase II

Phase II application winners raked in lots of cash as well.

Phase III

Phase III awarded a piece of the $200 million Race to the Top pie to seven states including: Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The seven winning applications include commitments to enhance data systems; raise academic standards; improve principal and teacher support and evaluation systems; and implement school interventions in underperforming schools.

As we can see, some states have received millions of dollars from the federal government in programs that involve a commitment to build Leviathan.

Leviathan in Wyoming

Wyoming lost out in the federal fund lottery to build Leviathan, but took stimulus money to spend on other things. That means state taxpayers seem to be on the hook to pay the full cost of the system, not to mention funding the IES and Race to the Top handouts to other states through their federal tax burden.

Source of Funding in Wyoming

According to the state’s Needs Assessment, the cost for Wyoming’s Leviathan is expected to be $18 million in its first five years.

Where will that money come from?

“Instead of the general fund, startup funds are to come from a special account known as the E-Rate excess-revenue account.”

Normally, when bureaucrats or legislators want money for a project, they write up a bill, initiate discussion during a legislative session, and – if deemed worthy – get it passed in the legislature and financed from the general fund. Something different happened with Wyoming’s data Leviathan. Instead of the general fund, startup funds are to come from a special account known as the E-Rate excess-revenue account.

As a result, your state representatives never debated whether or not a centralized system holding a massive amount of your child’s private data was a good idea.

E-Rate Revenue

Wyoming has been a participant in the Schools and Library Program of the Universal Service Fund’s E-Rate program since 1996.

The Universal Service Fund gets its money from a federal tax on your telecommunications and Internet bills. Part of this federal tax goes back to states via the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). One of USAC’s programs is the E-Rate program. It reimburses schools and libraries when they expand their telecommunications and Internet capabilities.

“As a result, your state representatives never debated whether or not a centralized system holding a massive amount of your child’s private data was a good idea.”

During the 2012 budget session, a section was added to the budget bill that raided $7.3 million from the E-Rate excess revenue account housed in the Department of Education (WDE). This is a special account that is supposed to get the data Leviathan’s ball rolling. The $7.3 million went to a number of government agencies, including the Enterprise Technology System (ETS), the Wyoming Community College Commission and Workforce Services. That amount totaled $3.65 million. The rest went into the school foundation program account, as would any future excess in the E-Rate account.

Most of the initial distribution, $2.6 million of the $3.65 million, goes to ETS. Between July 1, 2012 and July 1, 2014, $280,000 pays for one full-time employee, $300,000 to contract someone to help share and access the information from all the education data holders in the state, and yet another $1,687,000 to implement an online educator credentialing assignment validation and reporting system. Just so costs don’t go overboard, hardware and system costs are capped at $1,128,000 for online certification and certification renewal. The department gets another $331,254 for two more employees to do the data analysis.

The Wyoming Community College Commission receives $280,000 for a full time employee and another $188,000 to contract for “data definition” -- whatever that means.

It doesn’t stop there, though. Workforce Services receives $500,000 for data monitoring and data collection.

But it’s not over yet because, of course, systems need to be maintained – just ask the Cheyenne Public Library.5 Up to $184,000 can be used for maintenance and operating costs of the online system to be shared by the WDE and the Wyoming Professional Teaching Standards Board, $375,000 for additional data storage in some yet-to-be-defined government agency enterprise solution – oh joy.

Of their share and between July 1, 2012 and November 30, 2012, ETS spent $304,743.04; and between July 1, 2012 and October 31, 2012, Workforce Services spent $108,947.

These state agencies are currently spending E-Rate money to kickstart Leviathan, but a centralized state database isn’t a school or library. How did these agencies get E-Rate money?

By employing a great deal of creativity.

For five years, USAC denied Wyoming’s application for an E-Rate fund reimbursement. The state appealed this decision, the appeal was settled and in 2009, the state received about $8 million in a lump sum. That lump went to the WDE. The WDE had already spent other funds for school and library telecommunications and Internet connectivity, so the $8 million infusion meant the E-Rate account held a pile of surplus cash. Instead of being used to reimburse school and library spending, or spent on extra school and library Internet connectivity, that money was moved into the school foundation account, making it unavailable to the WDE, but available for building Leviathan. In fact, some at WDE weren’t so sure the money could be used for anything other than school and library interconnectivity. The state checked, and in a conference call with USAC Vice President Mel Blackwood, it was assured it could use the money for whatever it wanted.

Hence the creation of the Leviathan slush fund.

Also in 2012, the legislature authorized ETS to apply for E-Rate funds that year and every future year. According to an official at the USAC, a government department such as the ETS can apply for funding if it is acting as a consortium for a larger group of schools and/or libraries. Put another way, ETS would be acting as a centralized purchaser and would then distribute project funding to the schools.

However, a state agency would not get E-Rate funding to build one centralized data system, the above-mentioned USAC official confirmed.

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