Tweaking the Family Education Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) was no big deal to Arne Duncan. He unilaterally changed a Congressional Act but what does the rule of law mean to this administration anyway? Making information available to third party vendors and other federal agencies was of little to no consequence. The USDOEd insisted: Your child’s data is safeguarded! The Department of Education needs this data for workforce planning! We are here to help track your child from cradle to grave! It’s all good.
This change in FERPA can be used for purposes other than what the Secretary of Education states and what this administration’s label of “tin foil hat wearers” have feared could happen. The Castle Park Middle School in Chula Vista, California needed funding to ready the school for a visit from Arne Duncan. It had trouble raising the funding and emails were provided to show student data was offered to a non-profit 501 (c)(3) company (South Bay Community Services) for $100,000:
As days go by, the exhortations for money for the Duncan event turn more worrisome. Data-gathering, which is a nationwide concern now in relation to Common Core Standards — appears to become a bargaining chip for money.
Data-gathering has recently emerged as a primary concern for opponents of Common Core Standards and Common Core assessments. Federal laws governing privacy for student data were weakened in 2011. Across the nation, parents have expressed concern that student data will be shared with third parties.
Castle Park Middle School is a Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood school. Promise Neighborhoods are funded by the Department of Education and claim to offer “cradle to career” services. South Bay Community Services is the organization that oversees and distributes the $60 million government investment in Chula Vista.
On August 2 Principal Bleisch wrote to Alt: “By the way, FYI-SBCS [Promise Neighborhood/South Bay Community Services] is prepared to give my school a good chunk of change (over $100K of PN money allocated last year for staff that was not used.) The catch is that they are kinda using the data-sharing agreement as leverage.) They promised to expedite this money transfer as soon as we deliver on the data agreement.”
“We sent Dr Brand the revised [data] agreement yesterday. He said it looked good. If there is any way you can help me get that signed I then can put the pressure on them to get me the money. I plan to use this money for the stage and other things needed for the 9/13 visit.”
On August 5, Bleisch wrote Alt a reminder. The subject of the email is “Data-Sharing.”
“Just a kind reminder if you can help us get this data-sharing agreement signed.” FYI-They’re [reference to South Bay Community Services] holding up money until I deliver on this [smiley face] need this PN money to pay $17k for a new stage and $3000 Flags, $5000 cafeteria college banners for Arne’s visit. (The revised agreement is signed and forwarded.)”
Read more here.
Now just why would South Bay Community Services want to buy student data? Do parents know their student’s data was offered as money to spruce up the school for Duncan’s visit? Do you still trust Duncan’s statement that student data will be safeguarded?
Maybe those “tin foil hat wearers” aren’t so crazy after all.