A Gallup poll taken early this year about what issues are most important to Americans found that 90 percent of Democrats view education as important while 67 percent of Republicans do. Yet education was barely raised by candidates running for the GOP and Democratic presidential candidates — and there’s no indication that it will be a big issue in the expected match-up between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the fall.
Now public school advocates opposed to corporate school reform are trying to get the attention of Democrats and Republicans, asking that both parties include five key principles in their party platforms that will be approved by their respective conventions this summer. If either party listens, it is more likely to be the Democrats, who traditionally are strong supporters of public education — even though the Obama administration embraced many aspects of the reform movement.
Trump has said very little about education policy other than to repeatedly declare that he would kill the Common Core State Standards — apparently not understanding that the U.S. president doesn’t have the power to do this. Given Trump’s anointment of Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon who unsuccessfully ran in the GOP primaries, as an important education adviser, it is safe to assume that a serious effort to work toward ending educational inequity and improve public schools would not be forthcoming in a Trump presidency.
One of the most pressing issues in the educational landscape today is the protection of student privacy. Personal data is being increasingly outsourced to for-profit vendors and data-mined for commercial purposes. Nearly 40 states have passed new student privacy laws in the last few years due to parental concerns. However, the public needs uniform federal protections to strengthen the federal law known as FERPA. After students reach age 18, these rights, including those related to notification and consent, should devolve to them. We advocate that students’ privacy right policies should:
*Require that parents be notified in advance of any disclosure of personal student information to any persons, companies or organizations outside of the school or district. All disclosures to third parties should also require publicly available contracts and privacy policies that specify what types of data are to be disclosed for what purposes and provide a date certain when the data will be destroyed.
*Prohibit the selling of personal student data. The use of student data for marketing purposes should be banned. No advertising should be allowed on instructional software or websites assigned to students by their schools.
*Require the encryption of personal data at motion and at rest, required training for all individuals with access to personal student data, audit logs and security audits by an independent auditor. Passwords should be protected in the same manner as all other personal student information. There must be notification to parents of all breaches and indemnification of the same. No “anonymized” or “de-identified” student information should be disclosed without verifiable safeguards to ensure data cannot be easily re-identified.