We are back from an extended Easter break and the first thing that landed on our desk was an interesting story of national import and one in which LouisianaVoice played a small but important role more than a year ago.
It was on Feb. 20, 2013, that we broke a story which almost immediately (among bloggers, that is; the mainstream media continued to ignore the impact of our revelations for several more months) produced state repercussions against John White and the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE). http://louisianavoice.com/2013/02/20/doe-emails-reveal-secretive-programs-ties-to-gates-rupert-murdoch-and-fox-news-network-agency-in-general-disarray/
That story, of course, was about the agreement between LDOE and inBloom, headed by Rupert Murdoch and supported in large part by a hefty cash infusion of $100 million by Bill Gates, that called for InBloom to provide sensitive personal data on hundreds of thousands of Louisiana school children—with no guarantee from inBloom that the data would not be susceptible to intrusion or hacking.
Yesterday, April 21, 2014, just 14 months after our initial story, came the word that inBloom was shutting down. http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/21/inbloom-student-data-repository-to-close/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0
What was Murdoch’s motive for this ambitious program” Well, we’ll let him tell you in his own words: “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S.” http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/blog/jeb-bushs-education-nonprofit-really-about-corporate-profits?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+itpi-blog+%28ITPI+Commentary+Feed%29
Yesterday’s news, welcome as it certainly is, is nevertheless tempered somewhat by two nagging questions:
- What becomes of all that data inBloom has already received from state school systems across the U.S., Louisiana included?
- Does one realistically believe that Murdoch and Gates are going to just walk away from a “$500 billion sector” in the U.S. economy?
The answers, in order, are: who knows and not likely.
Subsequent to our posting our original story, White attempted to assuage the public concern about “parking” private student data in the inBloom “garage,” announced on April 19 that he was withdrawing student information from the InBloom database. When inBloom responded by claiming Louisiana was “still part of inBloom community,” LouisianaVoice made a public records request three days later (April 22) in which we asked for “the official letter or email that you sent to inBloom to cancel the data storage agreement…”
White ignored our request and LouisianaVoice filed suit and the case was settled prior to trial with LDOE having to fork over our legal costs plus $3500 in fines. What we finally got was a statement from LDOE saying, “…the Department is not in possession of any public record(s) responsive to the above-written request.” http://louisianavoice.com/2013/05/10/holy-missing-documents-batman-doe-has-no-record-of-inbloom-agreement-cancellation-for-student-data-parking/
The information we literally stumbled upon was contained in 119 pages of emails we had requested from LDOE. (Also among those emails was that now-infamous, somewhat creepy exchange between Peter Gorman, senior vice president of Wireless Generation, the newly-formed education division of Murdoch’s News Corp., and Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White in which White confided to Gorman, “Dude—you are my recharger.”)
The story of Louisiana’s plans to take part in Murdoch’s scheme actually broke a month before our initial story, but included Louisiana only peripherally. A New York non-profit organization calling itself Class Size Matters, in January 2013 made mention of the fact that Louisiana would be participating in the data collection move a month before, but no one in Louisiana (White’s small circle of sycophants at LDOE) had any knowledge of what was taking place with this confidential student information.
When our story about Louisiana’s intentions to contribute personal student data to inBloom broke, friend and fellow blogger Jason France of The Crazy Crawfish (an announced candidate for Chas Roemer’s seat on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education) immediately re-blogged our post. In quick order, others, like Diane Ravitch, formerly assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush and now an activist against many national education programs like Common Core, helped the story go viral.
As of April 2, 2014, Class Size Matters announced that each of the nine states originally listed as inBloom’s “partners,” including New York, had either pulled out completely, put data sharing plans on indefinite hold or made data-sharing voluntary on the part of individual school districts. Some local New York school superintendents even wrote letters to inBloom, demanding that their data be deleted, a request that inBloom rejected.
When it was launched, inBloom announced that the nine states were “partners” in the data-sharing plan. After protests from parents and privacy advocates, however, three states pulled out completely. The three states were identified as Colorado, North Carolina and Louisiana.
“Because of the egregious over-reaching of the Gates Foundation and inBloom,” said Class Size Matters in a prepared statement posted on its web page, “parents throughout the country have now been awakened to the myriad threats to student privacy…all in the name of ‘personalized learning.’” http://www.classsizematters.org/inbloom_student_data_privacy/
All of which clearly and unquestionably illustrates the importance of reporting the real news, the real issues, as opposed to simply printing press releases and asking questions instead of accepting elected officials’ and bureaucrats’ condescending assurances as gospel—and of the effectiveness of concerted efforts on the part of a determined citizenry to work toward a common goal.
Are we (LouisianaVoice and Crazy Crawfish) proud? Are we bragging? Are we entitled to grab a small share of the credit?