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Data Privacy Bill Clears Senate, Amendment Raises Concerns Among Common Core Advocates

A Senate bill passed on Thursday aims to keep students’ digital data out of the hands of companies that could misuse the information.

Bill sponsor Sen. Jimmy Higdon told the chamber the General Assembly can’t afford to postpone action.

"The fact of the matter is that right now in our country some private companies are accessing and using information about students. Federal laws are outdated when it comes to protecting our students' data in this rapidly changing world. Adults have a choice when it comes to online services they expose themselves to. Our students do not," he said.

In addition to beefing up privacy protections, the legislation also mandates that school districts make public all third-party or private online services contracted by the district.

While lawmakers agreed on the primary goal of the bill, an amendment allowing districts to "exceed" requirements in the Common Core standards raised concerns the education benchmarks might be undermined. Sen. Gerald Neal worried aloud that the bill’s language could open the door for conflicting standards.

"The problem I have is that it's subject to interpretation and once it leaves this chamber and it becomes operations, then we don't know which way that's going to go. I would postulate that it does leave room for conflict with existing standards," Neal argued.

Kentucky became the first state to implement the Common Core in 2010 and Gov. Steve Beshear implemented the Next Generation science standards over the wishes of a legislative review committee in 2013. Since then, Republicans have weighed introducing legislation to eliminate the state Board of Education-approved learning requirements, which some conservative groups argue overemphasize global climate issues and require the teaching of evolution.

SB-89 sponsor Sen. Jimmy Higdon says his bill only allows districts to add more rigorous standards on top of the current requirements.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.