In addition to the critical issue of class size, this year we have focused on protecting student privacy from the corporation called inBloom Inc. I 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 with as much personal student information as possible, to be stored on a vulnerable
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, one by one of 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, New York education officials are still intent on sharing with inBloom a complete statewide set of personal data for all public school students– including their 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, calling for an immediate injunction to block the state’s plan.
In addition, two bills passed the Assembly last session that would require parental consent or opt out before State officials could hand over student data to inBloom, and Senator Flanagan, chair of Education committee, has recently called for an immediate one year moratorium on the state disclosing data to inBloom.
No matter what happens in court or in the legislature this year, our campaign to stop inBloom and protect student privacy will continue, as will our work to ensure that parental consent is required before any sensitive personal data is shared with third-party vendors. Because as we have learned, inBloom is just the tip of the iceberg – the most visible evidence of the insatiable appetite of companies to collect and use our children’s data for private gain.
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.
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
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, there is more and more money 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 a Happy New Year,
Leonie Haimson, Executive Director