Student privacy bill advances to House for debate
BATON ROUGE (AP) — A compromise proposal to limit how the state handles public school student data received the backing Wednesday of the House Education Committee, a week after lawmakers couldn’t reach a consensus on what restrictions to enact.
Rep. John Schroder, the bill’s sponsor, huddled with the state education department to work out details and brought a revised version to lawmakers after concerns were raised that his initial proposal went too far and could jeopardize billions in federal education funding.
“It’s not everything I want, but the most important thing to me is protecting the private data of children. I think the bill clearly does that,” said Schroder, R-Covington.
The committee backed his rewritten bill without objection, advancing it to the full House for debate.
Under the proposal, the state education department will develop a new system that gives a unique identifying number to public school students by mid-2015, rather than using social security numbers.
New, detailed restrictions would be placed on how any student information can be shared and who can access it.
The issue of student privacy is a flashpoint in the larger dispute over the state’s participation in tougher educational standards called the Common Core, particularly how online testing data will be used and shared with outside parties, including the federal government.
Several parents who oppose Common Core and who pushed for the privacy legislation said Schroder’s new version doesn’t go far enough.
“The protective nature of the bill has been unacceptably diminished in my opinion,” said parent Nikki Gaspard.
Gaspard and other Common Core opponents have expressed worries that the private details of their children’s grades, medical conditions and Social Security numbers could be leaked for others to see. They said the state education department hasn’t properly protected their children’s personal information.
“This battle has just begun. Parents will be back in larger numbers in the future,” Gaspard said.
State Superintendent of Education John White and leaders of other state agencies had warned that too many data restrictions could jeopardize billions of dollars in federal funding and students’ abilities to get free college tuition through the state program called TOPS.