Senate bill would protect student data

Separate provision would allow school districts to exceed state standards

By Kevin Wheatley, Published:

The state Senate passed a bill Thursday that would not only protect student data from being sold to marketers, but allow school districts to set academic standards higher than those required by the state.

Senate Bill 89, which passed 37-0, focuses on remote-access “cloud” computer services for students, said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Jimmy Higdon of Lebanon. The bill would require a litany of contractual obligations for cloud vendors, such as specifying the type of student data collected and prohibiting vendors from selling that data to advertisers.

Higdon said student data should be used for educational purposes, not building a marketing campaign.

“Simply put, it is my opinion that no company in a position to store private student data that is doing business with Kentucky schools should be able to sell that mutual data for their profit or to sell that data for marketing purposes,” Higdon said on the Senate floor. 

“The fact of the matter is that right now in our country, some private companies are accessing and using information about students.”

While the bill passed without dissent, Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, questioned the provision allowing local school councils to adopt more stringent academic standards than those approved by the Kentucky Board of Education.

Higdon said some schools already exceed Common Core standards set by the state, and Sen. Mike Wilson, a Bowling Green Republican and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said the legislation would not conflict with the state’s current education standards.

“It does not change any standards that are already adopted,” Wilson said. “It simply means that those standards are the floor.”

Neal’s concerns weren’t allayed, though he voted for SB 89 in support of the student information protections. He said the legislation, if enacted, would be open to interpretation, and he could see potential conflicts arise between the state’s education standards and those adopted by local site-based decision-making councils.

“I’m hoping at the other end of the hall (in the House) that they will tighten this language up so that we would not have conflicting standards with the existing standards that we have for our students,” Neal said.

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