Information Battles in NYC and Philly Schools

Education Town Hall News Briefs:
NYC Parents Sue to Stop Data Store
Philly Parents Sue to Gain Document Access
see also, earlier this week: education in DC’s mayoral race

Tune in to the Education Town Hall, Thursdays at 11 a.m. (eastern) on We Act Radio (1480 AM in Metro DC)

NYC Parents Sue to Stop Data Store

Twelve New York City public school parents filed suit yesterday in an effort to prevent the private corporation inBloom from releasing student data. According to a statement released by the group’s attorneys, InBloom Inc. was established by a $100 million dollar grant from the Gates Foundation as a multi-state data store. The statement argues that data is “to be stored on a vulnerable cloud run by, with an operating system built by Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.”

inBloom itself says that it “provides districts access to a secure cloud-based data system, which meets the most stringent federal government standards. Each participating school district has its own protected storage space and will continue to own, manage and control access to its data, just as it always has. In no way will the student information stored using inBloom be shared nationally.”

However, the company’s website also says its product is designed to “Provide authorized applications and school data systems with access to the Data Store” and to share data “about learning resources and learning objectives to inBloom-compatible applications.” (see Core Components)

In addition, critics point out that government regulations don’t yet exist for the kind of storage inBloom is creating and argue that there are not enough safeguards in place.

Nine states originally signed up to be part of the inBloom launch. Seven states have pulled out or put participation on hold. Illinois is allowing districts to decide whether to participate.

Only New York remains committed statewide. Data on most of its 2.7 million students has already been uploaded to inBloom. The lawsuit seeks to halt data use by the private operator.

(See this New York Times article; Jefferson County, Colorado has since dropped out.)

Philly Parents Sue to Gain Document Access

Parents United for Public Education and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia want to see documents used to make decisions about school closings and budget allocation to city public schools.

Prior to the start of this school year, two dozen schools were closed, more than 3000 employees were lost, and school libraries were shuttered. Some 9000 students are directly affected. Empty school buildings now appear on a fast-track to developer sales. But the documents used to inform these drastic decisions have not been made public, despite repeated community requests.

Concerns about transparency and equity continue to grow as the chaotic school year progresses. $45 million dollars has been restored to the school district’s budget, but the money has not been allocated to reduce crowding and other immediate needs. An anonymous $200,000 donation resulted in re-opening libraries at two magnet high schools, while other schools continue to do without.

Advocates have petitioned the superintendent regarding fund allocation, and a hearing on the public disclosure matter is scheduled for early December.

Meanwhile, parents and community members have filed 800 complaints with the State of Pennsylvania about the impact of budget cuts on students in Philly. A ColorLines report notes that Philadelphia schools have been state-controlled for years and that the state is charged with providing an adequate, quality public education. Advocates assert that the state has failed.



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