By Ken Epstein
Oakland public school parents were shocked to learn this week that the school district is considering a data-sharing agreement with a charter school industry nonprofit group.
The proposal on this week’s Board of Education agenda would share student personal information with the nonprofit “Oakland Enrolls,” which runs the enrollment program for nearly all Oakland’s charter schools and has a board of directors compromised almost entirely of local charter school leaders.
After a flurry of community complaints, the proposal was pulled from this Wednesday’s board agenda, according to Board President Aimee Eng.
“We need to get more clarity from staff about how student information (will be protected)” and perhaps strengthen the protections in the proposed contract with Open Enrolls, she said.
Eng said the issue may come back to the board at its next meeting on Jan. 23. According to district spokesman John Sasaki, the purpose of gathering information is so that the district will know which students are applying to both charter schools and district schools in order to improve planning and staffing at the beginning of the school year.
“This information is not to be used for recruiting students to charter schools,” Sasaki said. “It is legal to exchange this information was long as you have a (signed) Memorandum of Understanding.”
“(However), we will let parents opt out of if it if they wish,” he said.
The resolution on this week’s agenda was placed on the school board’s consent calendar, which is reserved for non-controversial items that are generally approved without discussion.
The data-sharing agreement data may include individual student information collected by the district such as: name, address, telephone Listing, ethnicity or race, nationality, participation in officially recognized activities and sports and the most recent previous education institution attended by the student.
While the contract with Oakland Enroll says the data can only be used for specific purposes, parents are concerned about the legality of letting personal information outside of the district’s control and the potential for data mining, selling information to private companies, a scandal involving supposedly “reputable” companies that is currently in the media.
“I would say that the danger for our students and families are not just getting advertisements thrown at them later,” said Jane Nyland, a parent and member of board of the Skyline High School PTSAs.
“This digital information is connected to the student forever,” she said. “Personal information gets sold off and sold off and sold off. You have no idea who has it.”
Added parent Ann Swinburn, “This agreement is an indication that the district is not actually serious about achieving financial stability for our kids because giving personal information for every student in the district to the charter school industry will further threaten the district with enrollment loss, and further erode parents’ trust in OUSD.”
Oakland Enrolls and OUSD both use enrollment software developed by SchoolMint, a company that In addition to OUSD serves several of the nation’s largest school districts including Chicago Public Schools and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
SchoolMint, which was recently purchased by Hero K12. A press release in 2017 said, “Hero K12, which is backed by BV Investment Partners, has acquired San Francisco-based SchoolMint, a provider of mobile and online enrollment and school choice systems for PreK-12 public, charter and private schools. SchoolMint’s backers included Runa Capital, Reach Capital (New Schools), Fresco Capital, Govtech Fund, Kapor Capital, Crosslink Capital, Maiden Lane Ventures and CSC Upshot.”
Hero K12’s applications are used to track student discipline records. “A complete, digital solution for tardy and attendance improvement, HeroReady brings accuracy to and radically simplifies the process for the front office,” according to the Hero K12 website.
This data sharing proposal is one of the steps OUSD is taking to merge functions of the school district with the privately managed charter industry based on Board Policy 6006, adopted in June, which was crafted by GO Public Schools – an Oakland-based, charter school industry-funded organization.
BP 6006 is policy designed to convert Oakland to a “portfolio school district “ – a controversial model that has led to rapid charter school proliferation in other districts like New Orleans, Indianapolis and Denver.
Published January 11, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post