Data security: Senate focuses on one bill

Senators will get their chance to review — and maybe revamp — a bill designed to tighten student data security.

At Chairman John Goedde’s request, the Senate Education Committee sent his Senate Bill 1372 to the Senate floor for amendment.

As written now, the bill sets up several guidelines to protect student data — a recurring concern raised in the debate of the new Idaho Core Standards. The bill makes clear what is considered student data — such as demographics, grades and test scores. It also makes clear what is not considered student data — information such as criminal records, medical records and biometric data. The bill also would impose civil penalties of up to $50,000 for leaking student data.

Many proponents of the Idaho Core Standards, such as Goedde, have acknowledged the importance of data security — and Gov. Butch Otter advocated a data security bill in his Jan. 6 state of the state address. On Wednesday, State Superintendent Tom Luna described the bill as a must-pass. “To do nothing this session would not come close to addressing concerns I have heard hundreds of times from groups and individuals.”

But the path to passing a data security bill is by no means clear.

When a bill is sent to the floor for amendment, it is open to all kinds of reworking. Any senator can offer up language. And that could include Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, who had drafted a competing bill.

Goedde, Pearce and education stakeholders met Tuesday to discuss their bills. “We determined that my bill had the best chance of getting through the legislative process,” Goedde said Wednesday morning.

Pearce, a Senate Education member, did not tip his hand during Wednesday’s meeting about possible amendments he may have in mind.

But Goedde tried to cajole committee members to tread carefully into the amending process. “This is a very, very complex issue.”

An SBAC review committee?

In other news from Senate Education Wednesday, Idaho Falls Republican Sen. Dean Mortimer unveiled a bill to create a 30-member panel to review “the type and kinds of questions that are posed in state assessments.”

The bill, co-sponsored by Goedde, is a response to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests, aligned to Idaho Core Standards. Those tests will be field tested in Idaho schools this spring, and are scheduled to be implemented in 2015.

A multistate group drafts the SBAC questions, and Idaho is involved in this process. But Mortimer wants an in-state panel to review the questions for bias and sensitivity — and to have the power to review or reject questions.

Parents would have 12 seats on the panel. Teachers would have six seats, as would school  administrators. The remaining six seats would go to school board members or charter school board members.

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