Who Is In Charge

GOP data bill dies in committee

A sweeping student data protection bill proposed by Republican legislators was killed on a 3-2 party line Monday evening by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Key elements of the bill would have required parent permission for collection of many types of student information and created new data security requirements, including fines for officials responsible for data breaches. In its original form it would have applied not only to the Department of Education but also to local districts and to state colleges and universities. Get details on the bill’s provisions in this legislative staff summary.

Committee members were sympathetic to witness concerns about data privacy, but the bill’s lateness (it was introduced only on April 16), lack of Democratic support and its complexity likely doomed it from the start.

Data security and testing have emerged as touchy education issues this session, and majority Democrats have had to walk a fine line between showing sensitivity to the issues while killing bills that would be disruptive to the state’s accountability and data systems.

That may be the reason SB 14-204 ended up in judiciary rather than education, where two Democratic members are seeking election this fall from swing districts in Jefferson County, where concern about data privacy is high among some parent groups.

Sponsor Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, and witnesses who backed the bill said the absolute right of parent choice should trump state and district desires for data collection.

“The potential for misuse, abuse, breach and harm is immeasurable,” said Rachel Stickland, a Jefferson County parent who’s been active on the issue.

A long parade of parent witnesses warned about big corporations using student data to amass profits and about the danger of sensitive information on mental conditions and school discipline following students into their adult lives.

But education professionals who testified warned that the bill was an overreach and could bar the gathering of necessary information about student special education needs, mental health, possible threats to school safety and about college and career planning.

“We’re worried that the brush is a little bit too broad,” said Brandon Eyre, a lawyer for the Aurora Public Schools.

As the three-and-a-half hour hearing concluded, the committee’s three Democrats went out of their way to compliment Marble and express concern over the issue.

“These are issues we have to address,” said Denver Democratic Sen. Mike Johnston, the legislator most associated with education reform ideas, including the benefits of data. But, he said, “There are too many things [in the bill] that have unintended consequences.”

Committee chair Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, found herself on the horns of a different dilemma. Noting that the American Civil Liberties Union supported the bill, she said, “I’ve never been on the opposite side of the ACLU.”

But she, Johnston and Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, combined to kill the bill on the 3-2 vote.

The only data bill still in play this session is House Bill 14-1294, which would impose several data security requirements only on CDE, mostly things the department says it’s already doing. That bill is awaiting Senate floor consideration.

Things were quieter in House Ed

The House Education Committee worked its way through three bills Monday, passing each of them on 7-5 party line votes. Those measures are:

  • Senate Bill 14-167, which would require school boards to keep lists of issues discussed and the amounts of time taken during executive sessions.
  • Senate Bill 14-167, a measure that proposes to create pilot programs to explore methods for improving student achievement at alternative education campuses.
  • Senate Bill 14-124, which proposes creation of a program in CDE to develop specially trained school turnaround leaders.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to texts of bills mentioned in this story and information about all 2014 education measures.


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”