Panel recommends studying Idaho student data collection

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A House legislative panel is recommending creating a work group to scrutinize governmental data collection on Idaho students and find ways to reduce it.

The House Education Committee unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that would form a task force to determine which information is needed to track academic achievement in schools and which information is not.

Republican Rep. Lynn Luker of Boise said he is concerned about the growing amount of data being collected on Idaho students in recent years.

Over the years, state and federal agencies have collected information such as birthdays or social security numbers. The information, known as data points, has increased from 400 to 566 items in recent years, Luker said.

When pressed for a specific timeframe, Luker didn't have the information, but said it was in the last "couple of years."

"The best security is to not collect the data," Luker said. "We want to make sure that we collect meaningful data — not data that is just there."

The plan also calls for the work group to examine what information should be collected on the individual level and which should be collected aggregately.

The bill now heads to the full House for approval.

Last year, Idaho lawmakers passed a law that aimed to protect student information and set fines for organizations that release student data illegally. School districts could be fined up to $50,000 for student data security breaches under the law.

Luker said that last year's plan was a good step forward but the process was rushed during the legislative session. He says the issue requires a deeper look.

The task force would also look into whether the state could lose federal funding for not reporting certain statistics, according to the bill.

Rep. Ryan Kerby of New Plymouth and Rep. Hy Clok of Boise both asked questions about how much federal funding Idaho could stand to lose.

Luker responded by saying that the task force would report back with how much money is tied to the data. The group will also analyze whether it's worth giving up the federal money in order to save local funds and maintain privacy.

The bill also comes less than a week before the state's office for performance evaluation is slated to release a report about Idaho's longitudinal data collection service.

Committee members passed the bill after listening to testimony solely favoring the legislation.

Valerie Candelaria, whose granddaughter is in the West Ada School District, said she fears that the agency would collect detailed health and dental records.

"I can see no possible reason that this data needs to be in an education database," she told lawmakers. "We need you to intervene on our kids' behalf."

Spokesmen Blake Youde and Kelly Everitt from the state education's department confirmed the agency doesn't collect any of that information.

Stacey Knudsen, a parent of a student, said that she thinks the data collection is benefiting businesses more than it is benefiting the students.

"This data is not helping our children," she said. "There are specific things that can help, but at a local and district level."

The study is expected to cost less than $10,000.

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