It’s None of the Government’s Business – Part II – by Christel Swasey   1 comment

Before CNN reported on the federal government’s tracking of children ( few people were aware that longitudinal databases had been built with federal grant money in every state to provide tracking data for state P-20 councils.  Or that P-20 councils even existed.

But they do exist.  Yes, even Utah has a P-20 Workforce.

As CNN’s Brooke Baldwin reported, “The Department of Education: recently taking steps to make it easier for states to share the personal information of fellow students– information like where they live, where they were born, how old they are, but also information like: how often they’re absent from school, how many extracurriculars they participate in, and –how much do they weigh?  The Department of Education says this is all an effort to help improve education programs across the country, but as you can imagine, not everyone is thrilled about that.”

CNN’s Brooke Baldwin also interviewed Lisa Snell, Director of Education and Child Welfare at the Reason Foundation, who said, “It gives new meaning to the idea that you would have a permanent record as a student –and anything that happened to you in fifth grade… someone could get access to that personal information…It tracks things like disciplinary issues…whether you became a single mother, so there’s just a lot of sensitive information, and the idea of moving toward putting it all in one place so that lots of different agencies have access to it, you know is scary… They collect a lot of information that has no relevance to student achievement…The more information sharing that goes on without the consent of the parents, the more likely it is that information gets into the wrong hands.”

Others have started talking about the ongoing and increasing (and Constitutionally unjustifiable) federal information raid. Glenn Beck did a segment called “EnjoyYour Privacy While You Can” that’s worth watching.

The Chicago Tribune discussed privacy invasions on citizens by the government:

Jane Robbins wrote that “The department’s eagerness to get control of all this information is almost  palpable. But current federal law prohibits a nationwide student database and  strictly limits disclosure of a student’s personal information. So the  department has determined that it can overcome the legal obstacles by simply  bypassing Congress and essentially rewriting the federal privacy statute.”

Research on citizens is done all the time by universities and other legitimate research groups.  If done with consent (including of course parental consent) –it can, of course, be beneficial.  But too much governmental surveillance of citizens –especially when it isn’t done by consent– turns into a dangerous privacy threat.

At what point does  new educational research begin to look andfeel more like citizen surveillance?

When laws and technology are changing simultaneously to enable government and educational data sharing to become very easy and consent-free, and when citizens aren’t speaking up to maintain their rights of privacy.

We have, for decades, had laws such as FERPA (Family Education Rights Privacy Act)  to guard privacy and to determine where to set the fine line between legitimate research and illegitimate research.  But these laws are under attack.  The dept. of education changed FERPA regulations without Congressional approval in January 2012.

This loosened parental authority over children’s data in favor of federal ease of access.  Freedoms and rights are truly under silent attack under the huge, bureaucratic umbrella of recent educational assessment reforms promoted by the Obama Administration, including mega testing and mega data-collection oversight by multiple federal agencies; also including the creation of P-20 councils across the nation that report to other agencies, giving dis-aggregated, personal data about our children without parental knowledge or consent.

Learn about our local and federal governmental research agencies so you can determine for yourself whether any cross the fine line between legitimate and illegitimate research.

  Utah Superintendent Larry Shumway, and a few other Utahns, sit on the governing board of WestEd., WestEd is also referred to as  WestRegional Lab, a division of TheNational Center for Educational Statistics (NCES).

The NCES, WestEd’s parent organization, defines itself as  “the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education.”

The  parent organization of NCES, WestEd’s grandparent, is the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), which defines itself as the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education.

So the U.S.Dept of Education encompasses IES which encompasses NCES, which is connected to the West Regional Lab / WestEd.  WestEd writes the common test for the SBAC consortium, to which Utah now belongs and to which it must submit.

The NCES has a national data collection model, which suggests that states should collect information on students including not just academic information, but also medical, psychological, income-related, social, family member-related, bus stop times and much more information.  This matches this year’s new and not congressionally approved, Dept. of Ed changes to FERPA (family privacy law).  These regulatory changes include schools collecting even biometric data from children (biometric data includes fingerprints, DNA samples, iris patterns, etc.) (page 4).

A group of Utahns now also work in what is called a P-20 workforce.  What is P-20? It stands for preschool to age 20 (and beyond) citizen tracking, and justifies its existence as promoting datagovernance for educational research.

A study putout by NCES last month (May 2012) teaches about P20-W councils.

The study advisesstates on how to best create and promote the P20-W council.

From that NCES document:

“P-20W refers to data from pre kindergarten (early childhood), K12, and post secondary through post-graduate education, along with workforce and other outcomes data (e.g., public assistance and corrections data).”

Under the heading “Initial Steps to Establishing P-20W Data Governance” we find things like gaining authority (via executive order, state statute, or as part of memoranda of understanding);  getting the approval of state leadership; making sure to “fully engage state leadership early on in the process…otherwise…long-term sustainability of the P-20W system may be in jeopardy,” and lobbying  for change of laws.

Additionally, P-20 initial steps include building relationships for crafting legislation to support the project, or, “otherwise, use the lack of legislation as an opportunity to develop the system, but involve policymakers from the beginning so there is buy-in for theproject and it can be sustainable in the future.”  They also suggest having conversations to “create a sense of ownership and a common interest, both of which are vital to data governance efforts.”

If this sounds subversive, that’s because it is. Nowhere in the Constitution or in General Educational Provisions Act law is the executive branch (Dept. of Ed) authorized to take over state educational systems, change state laws, or create a surveillance system of children.  Nowhere.  But that is what they are doing.

The P-20 councils intend to use the state’s longitudinal database to share data with any “stakeholder” so that they can be in charge of what parents used to be in charge of: in their words, to “build better citizens for tomorrow” by connecting the Utah Educator Network, the Utah Data Alliance, and Choice Solutions:

Let’s wake up and say no.  Our private lives are not the government’s business.

One response to “It’s None of the Government’s Business – Part II – by Christel Swasey

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  1. Well this answers the question as to why my son had his finger print taken under the guise of lunch program policy.

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