Below is a letter from Leonie Haimson, who was previously added to the honor roll of this blog for fighting for students, parents, and public education.
Leonie almost singlehandedly stopped the effort to mine student data, whose sponsors wanted confidential and identifiable information about every child “for the children’s sake.” Leonie saw through that ruse and raised a national ruckus to fight for student privacy. Privacy of student records is supposedly protected by federal law (FERPA), but Arne Duncan weakened the regulations so that parents could not opt out of the data mining.
It is not over. The Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation put up $100 million to start inBloom, and Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation got the contract to develop the software, and amazon.com plans to put it on a “cloud.” They will be back. We count on Haimson and the many parents she has inspired to remain vigilant on behalf of our children. As a grandparent of a child in second grade in a Brooklyn public school, I have a personal interest in keeping his information private.
Here is Leonie’s letter, written 12/20/13:
I have good news to report! Yesterday, Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the NYS Assembly, along with Education Chair Cathy Nolan and fifty Democratic Assemblymembers sent a letter to Commissioner King, urging him to put a halt to inBloom.
“It is our job to protect New York’s children. In this case, that means protecting their personally identifiable information from falling into the wrong hands,” said Silver. “Until we are confident that this information can remain protected, the plan to share student data with InBloom must be put on hold.”
Why is this important? Because Speaker Silver and the Democrats in the Assembly appoint the Board of Regents, as the Daily News noted. The Regents control education policy in New York, and appoint the commissioner.
We have begun to make real headway in the past year against inBloom, but we need your support so we can continue the fight for student privacy and smaller classes in the public schools.
We count on donations from individuals like you as our main source of funding. If you appreciate our work and want it to continue and grow stronger, please give a tax-deductible contribution right now by clicking here: http://www.nycharities.org/donate/c_donate.asp?CharityCode=1757 or sending a check to the address below.
I am proud to have been called “the nation’s foremost parent expert on inBloom and the current threat to student data privacy.” We were the first advocacy group in the nation to sound the alarm about inBloom’s plan to create a multi-state database to be stored on a vulnerable data cloud run by Amazon.com with an operating system built by Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify. The explicit goal of inBloom was to package this information in an easily digestible form and offer it up to data-mining vendors without parental consent.
In February, inBloom formally launched as a separate corporation, and nine states were listed as “partners.” We worked hard to get the word out through blogging, personal outreach to parent activists and the mainstream media. After protests erupted in states throughout the country, inBloom’s “partners” pulled out. Now, eight out of these states have severed all ties with inBloom or put their data sharing plans on indefinite hold.
Sadly, as of yesterday, New York education officials were still intent on sharing with inBloom a complete statewide set of personal data for all public school students– including names, addresses, phone numbers, test scores and grades, disabilities, health conditions, disciplinary records and more. To stop this, we helped to organize a lawsuit on behalf of NYC parents which will be heard in state court on January 10 in Albany (note the new date), asking for an immediate injunction to block the state’s plan. (The state has delayed the hearing in order to gain more time to respond to our legal briefs.)
In addition, we will continue our work on the critical issue of class size. As a result of our reports, testimonies and public outreach, we have been able to shine a bright light on what many consider to be the most shameful aspect of Mayor Bloomberg’s education legacy: the fact that class sizes in NYC have increased sharply over the last six years and are now the largest in the early grades since 1998. More on this issue is in my Indypendent article just published, called Grading the Education Mayor
Class sizes have increased every year, despite the fact that the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case was supposedly “settled” by a state law in 2007 that required NYC to reduce class sizes in all grades. As a result, 86% of NYC principals say they are unable to provide a quality education because classes are too large. Parents say that smaller classes are their top priority according to the Department of Education’s own surveys. There is no more critical need than smaller classes if the city’s children are to have an equitable chance to learn.
But class size is not just a critical issue in NYC public schools. Because of budget cuts, class sizes have risen sharply throughout the state and the nation as a whole. In more than half of all states, per-pupil funding is lower than in 2008 and school districts have cut 324,000 jobs.
At the same time, more and more money is being spent by billionaires and venture philanthropists on bogus “studies” to try to convince states and districts that class size doesn’t matter and public funds should be spent instead on outsourcing education into private hands – despite much rigorous research showing the opposite to be true.
With vendors trying to grab your child’s data in the name of providing “personalized” instruction – a euphemism that really means instruction delivered via computers and data-mining software in place of real-life teachers giving meaningful feedback in a class small enough to make this possible — our efforts are more crucial than ever before.
Please make a donation so that our work can continue and be even more effective in 2014.
Thanks for your support and Happy New Year,
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011