The nation’s leading homeschooling organization is warning parents that the federal government is advancing its aim of identifying and tracking students throughout their school careers, from birth through college graduation.
In an online statement, William Estrada, director of federal relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association, acknowledged statistics on student achievement are helpful to researchers and parents.
But there’s really no need for the government to track such data, he insisted.
“A national database of student-specific data is very concerning for many reasons,” he wrote. “The national databases being created now include detailed records of students, including race, gender, birth information, learning disabilities, detailed academic records, and much more. This information is being collected soon after birth, all the way through graduation from college.”
Estrada said the more personal the information, “the greater the danger to the student’s privacy and safety if the data is breached.”
“Will certain data make it harder for students to get into higher education? Will it be disclosed to government employers, or even private employers?” he asked.
He said HSLDA believes “each student is unique, with far more to offer society than just the sum of their academic years.”
“Government tracking students from soon after birth until they graduate from college is Orwellian and seems like a ‘Big Brother’ mentality, and has no place in a free society,” he said.
Estrada said his organization takes the position “there are very little reasons for the government to track student-specific data.”
WND reported just days ago on a massive $100 million public-school database spearheaded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The files already contain details such as name, address, Social Security number, attendance, test scores, homework completion, career goals, learning disabilities, hobbies and attitudes on millions of public school students.
Claiming that the national database will enhance education, the main funder of the project, the Gates Foundation, entered the joint venture with the Carnegie Corporation of New York and school officials from a number of states. After Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify Education, a division of News Corp, spent more than a year developing the system’s infrastructure, the Gates Foundation delivered it to inBloom ‒ a nonprofit corporation recently established to run the database.
Estrada said that project is one that the organization is continuing to check out.
“This database has the ability to track students, their educational progress and a vast degree of personal information about every student. This database is run and operated by a company called inBloom, and nine states (Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, Massachusetts) have already uploaded student information into this database,” he said.
Already, he added, New York City is also providing details on homeschool students.
Estrada said HSLDA long has opposed a national database of student-specific information.
“We believe that such national databases threaten the privacy of students, could be abused by government officials or business interests that may gain access to the data, threaten the safety of young people if their data is breached, and are not necessary in order to educate young people.”
He said the federal government’s strategy appears to require statewide databases to qualify for federal grants. Those state information files “are aligned between the states, and … are becoming a de facto national database.”
“We believe that as national databases grow, it will become increasingly difficult to protect the personal information of homeschool and private school students,” he wrote.
Estrada explained much of the impetus comes from the 2009 stimulus bill that created the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund program of nearly $54 billion under which the Department of Education grants money to states in exchange for student databases.
The stimulus granted $4.35 billion to “Race to the Top,” which calls for “data systems that measure student growth and success.”
“Under RTTT, states that receive the grants are required to set up data systems where every public school student from early childhood programs to college will be identified in a system by a bar code showing student enrollment, demographics, transfers, teachers, test records, and transcripts,” Estrada explained.
In fact, the legislation specifies no database, no grant.
The links between states and the federal agency granting money “are leading to a de facto national database,” he said.
“As a result, we are seeing before our eyes the creation of a ‘national database’ where every single public school student’s personal information and academic history will be stored,” he said, even though federal law bans national student databases.
Efforts such as the Gates strategy already are stirring controversy.
“It’s a lot of smoke and mirrors,” contended Electronic Privacy Law Center Administrative Counsel Khaliah Barnes in a statement to the New York Daily News. “What happens if a company using the data is compromised? What happens if the company goes out of business? We don’t know the answers.”
To counter Gates’ school database project, ParentalRights.org, which addresses the rights and responsibilities of the basic family unit, urges Americans to sign a petition supporting the Parental Rights Amendment, which will codify the fundamental right of parents in the U.S. Constitution to direct the upbringing, education and care of their children.