MANATEE -- Republican State Sen. Bill Galvano has been pressing for legislation involving Florida education data since February. His bill passed this week by unanimous vote, which Galvano said is uncommon for an education bill.
Galvano's bill requires the Board of Governors and the Department of Education to make a database available to research entities and other branches of the state government. The bill allows collecting and reporting of statewide education data, which has been in possession of the Department of Education since legislation passed in 2001.
Galvano said the purpose of the new legislation is to identify unmet needs, strengthen Department of Education information management through posting on a single web base and protecting education information.
The database will include rate information for retention transfers, completions, graduations, employment, placement rates and graduate earnings. The database will not contain any information confidential by law.
While the bill had great reception in the Florida Senate, it is already facing citizen backlash.
A small group of parents from Liberty in Action gathered outside of Galvano's office Thursday morning to protest the bill.
Chrissy Blevio, founder and organizer of the Manatee chapter of Liberty in Action, said she believes the bill is "a dangerous invasion of privacy to Florida's children."
Liberty in Action is a group for people who value freedom, the Constitution and the "American way of life," she said.
Blevio and other members of Liberty in Action, Elaine Cade and Ken Terry, said they believe the database makes too much student information available.
Blevio said she is most concerned about information becoming public about student bus stops, at-risk status, non-school activities and parental political and religious affiliations.
Galvano said there is confusion among parents surrounding the bill.
"They are well-intended but they misunderstand," Galvano said of the protesters. "There is a list of information that the database shall not contain."
Information about religious and political affiliations and personal info and student education records will not be listed. Galvano said the database will only be accessible in Florida.
"This is not linked in with a national database," Galvano said.
Blevio has met with Galvano, concluding he was helpful to a point. But she is still worried about who might get their hands on her child's information.
"It is in a cloud somewhere, and it is frightening," Blevio said.
Blevio does not believe the information is secure. She pointed to a section of the bill she considers misleading: "To promote adoption of a common set of data elements identified by the National Center for Education Statistics to support the effective exchange of data within and across states."
This refers to an advisory council to the Board of Governors, Galvano said. The advisory council is to set up protocol for an agreement between departments and advise on data elements.
Blevio and Galvano had a phone conversation during the protest in which Blevio expressed her concerns with the bill.
"Galvano did not side with citizens," Blevio said after the call. "Instead, he chose the interest of Jeb Bush and corporations such as the Gates Foundation."
Galvano said he has not worked with Bush on the bill. He said he has been meeting with citizens to address questions and concerns, and he has tweeted to explain the legislation.
Galvano said he has worked on the bill's verbiage before it was passed and that he is happy with it.
Liberty in Action members are not appeased.
"I do not want this info on my children collected, stored, or given/sold to anyone. It is my right as a parent and my child's right as a U.S. citizen that our privacy be respected and protected," Blevio said.
Galvano said this is a case of misinformation.
"The bill is meant to establish protocol for data that the Department of Education already has," Galvano said. "And there are penalties stronger than those that exist under Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act for sale of that data."
Galvano said he applauds Liberty in Action for being a part of the process.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @ericabearl