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Amended version of data privacy bill heads to the House

Updated March 18 – Senate Bill 15-173 received 35-0 final Senate approval on Wednesday.

The carefully crafted compromise bill on privacy and security of student data got preliminary Senate approval Tuesday, but some issues remain to be debated in the House.

SB 15-173 primarily focuses on the businesses that provide data services to schools and districts. The bill prohibits them from sharing, mining, selling or using personally identifiable student data, and from compiling such data for commercial uses. The bill also would ban direct marketing to students based on their individual data.

The measure also would require school districts to provide information to parents about data collection and about all vendors used by a district. Small school districts would be excluded from this requirement. Districts also would have to provide staff training on data security and notify parents of data breaches.

Tuesday’s floor debate went quickly and smoothly, with senators approving a couple of minor amendments. They also approved a more significant amendment that removed a section of the bill that would have required vendors to destroy student data three years after a vendor no longer needed it to fulfill a contract with the district.

School districts were concerned that provision would have required them to keep expensive backup data systems to maintain records that former students might need later for higher education or jobs.

Two additional attempts to tweak the bill failed. Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, proposed exempting companies that don’t deal primarily in data but rather provide websites for class materials.

And Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, proposed an amendment to put small districts under the bill’s requirements. “I don’t understand why we wouldn’t choose to apply them [the bill’s requirements] equally,” he said.

He said students and parents in small districts deserve the same privacy protections as those provided in larger districts.

Prime sponsor Sen. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, opposed the amendment but acknowledged the issue may come up again in the House. Holbert is determined to get a data bill through the 2015 session and is doing a delicate balancing act to generate support from or minimize opposition by various interest groups. Exempting small districts was part of that process.

The bill has bipartisan backing, and Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, is the prime sponsor in the House.

Two more comprehensive data bills already have been killed in a House committee (see story for details on what they proposed).

Tuition tax credits left for another day

The Senate Tuesday also was scheduled to debate Senate Bill 15-045, which would allow tax credits for private school tuition, but it was laid over. The bill may pass through the Republican-controlled Senate, but not until after vigorous floor opposition from Democrats. The measure is considered to have no chance of passage in the Democratic-majority House.