Terry McLaughlin: ‘Cradle to Career’ embraces Big Brother data collection
With a $10 million budget appropriation, an aggressive timeline, and full support of Gov. Gavin Newsom, California is now making plans to track your children, beginning at birth and continuing at least until they are in the workplace.
California’s new “Cradle to Career Data System” is included in Senate Bill 75, a lengthy bill elaborating on the 2019-2020 state budget for education. It lays out steps to be taken over the next 18 months to determine how the system will be governed, who will have access to the data, and how privacy and security will be handled.
This measure did not go through the usual legislative process which would typically include committee hearings and votes. The “Cradle to Career Data System” was enacted as part of a budget trailer bill and presented to California lawmakers for an up-or-down vote. It passed 31-7 in the Senate and 62-14 in the Assembly.
The “Cradle to Career Data System” will collect data on your children from “partner entities,” which include, but are not limited to, “state entities responsible for elementary and secondary education data, entities responsible for early learning data, segments of public higher education, private colleges and universities, state entities responsible for student financial aid, childcare providers, state labor and workforce development agencies, and state departments administering health and human services programs.” (SB 75, Chapter 8.5).
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The intent of this legislation is to identify and track “predictive indicators to enable parents, teachers, health and human services providers, and policy makers to provide appropriate interventions and improve outcomes for students.” (SB 75, Chapter 8.5). The $10 million appropriation is just the initial investment, to be used to create a workgroup of “facilitators, planners, and consultants” to examine how the data system could identify individuals by “race, ethnicity, region, gender, military status, parents’ education and age”.
California’s “Cradle to Career Data System” is part of a national movement called “Strive Together” that began in 2006 as a local effort in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Within several years the Strive Together National Cradle to Career Network was formed to spread and support this concept. Today, the network consists of approximately 70 Cradle to Career partnerships across at least 30 states, impacting over 13 million children. This national movement has gained public support from former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams, New York Times writer David Brooks, and former Obama Administration Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton, among others.
With the passage of SB 75, the Office of Planning and Research is authorized to enter into contracts with “planning facilitators” who will convene advisory groups “comprised of representatives of students, parents, labor, business and industry, equity and social justice organizations, researchers, privacy experts, early education experts, school districts, charter schools, and county offices of education.”
The aim of the system is to collect ethnic, economic, and educational records of every child in the state, tracking their grades and their progress into adulthood — and then making some form of that data available to policy makers, analysts and activists.
“We refuse to settle for a world where a child’s potential is dictated by the conditions in which the child is born … We know the systems designed to serve our youth are failing children and families of color and those living in poverty. We exist to give every child every chance, cradle to career,” says Strive Together CEO and President Jennifer Blatz.
Who could argue with a well-intentioned goal of improving long-term outcomes and giving every child a chance at success?
But even if you agree with the goal of this legislation, which appears to go beyond laws that ban discrimination and beyond affirmative action into a world in which government bureaucrats tally the economic success of each racial and ethnic group or sub-group, it is fair to, as Susan Shelley wrote in the Orange County Register, “question whether the best way to accomplish it is to set up a database that, if breached or used improperly, would expose the personal and educational records of every child in California to hackers or data merchants.”
The workgroup acknowledges these risks and will include privacy and security experts, but we have all learned by now that even the most high-tech of companies can suffer catastrophic data breaches. Your child’s privacy is at stake. A government entity is poised to create an Orwellian data system that profiles your child. This legislation goes far beyond the Common Core Education Standards’ data tracking.
Will this database record each visit to the principal’s office? Will it indicate if your child stands up to authority? How about any special skills or talents your child may possess? Will mental or physical health records be accessed? Will these records be tapped for marketing purposes, by activist groups, by potential employers?
How will this data mining help a failing student? Will the state intervene in a child’s family life? Will this data be used to enact laws based upon perceived equity? Or will this legislation just expand government with no meaningful benefit to our children?
All of these questions remain unanswered, but we do know that these records will be there throughout the lifetime of your child — their whole life’s history available in one handy file.
Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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