Education

Jun 18, 2014 8:19 AM by AP

Education dept. working on student privacy changes

The state education board intends to steer up to $1 million to an education department effort to create a new identification system for public school students that doesn't use social security numbers.

The use of unique student identification numbers is required under a recently-passed bill seeking more protections for student data and limits on how the information can be used.

A financial committee of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education agreed without objection Tuesday to pay either $1 million or 75 percent of the total cost for the education department to develop the new system, whichever is less.

The full board was expected to give final approval Wednesday.

"This goes to the benefit of every single family and every single student of this state," said BESE President Chas Roemer. "I've never heard a single issue that was so unanimously supported."

Parents had pressed for more protections of the information collected on students, raising concerns about identity theft and sensitive data being improperly shared.

Lawmakers agreed without opposition in the recently-ended legislative session to put new limits on how Louisiana handles student data and to require the shift away from using social security numbers to identify students.

Creation of the new student identification system required under the bill by Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, must be completed by the Department of Education by May 1, and local school boards must assign each student a number by June 1.

"This is an overhaul of the entire data relationship with local school systems and charter schools as well as with vendors," said Superintendent of Education John White, a bill supporter.

The BESE funding will be used to hire an outside contractor to build the system and to buy the computer equipment to run it.

White said the state education department won't be able to get anything from the local districts other than non-personally identifiable information, and he said local school districts won't be able to broadly share the data.

A private contractor who violates the bill provisions can face a jail sentence of up to three years and a fine of up to $10,000, and a person convicted of improperly sharing student data can be jailed up to six months and fined up to $10,000.

Education board member Jim Garvey questioned whether the bill will address all concerns because the local district still will maintain databases with student names and social security numbers through contracts with third-party storage providers.

Two BESE members - Lottie Beebe and Carolyn Hill - criticized the use of board funding to help pay for the student identification system, suggesting White's department should shoulder the cost. But neither member voted against the funding plan.

"I don't really care how it gets funded, but I think the people that we represent are demanding that we do this," Schroder told the board.

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