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
“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.