a m e r i c a ’ s P l a n c H a P t e r 1 1 Working toward the goal of national educational data In some circumstances, making financial information— sharing, the U.S. Department of Education should convene including product pricing—easier to access, compare and stakeholders to adopt the standards by implementing them in analyze can lead to tacit price collusion among competing ways that make it easier for schools to satisfy reporting re- providers and to overall higher prices.89 Delaying publication of quirements or by funding projects that help vendors test and these data, or aggregating them in ways that still allow mean- implement the standards in their products. ingful and actionable tracking and comparison, could help Privacy and data protection laws for students and their reduce the chances that collusion will occur while still provid- families need to be modernized to reap the full benefit of im- ing the benefits of making financial data more accessible. In proved information flow about student performance while still developing standards and procedures for collecting and sharing fully protecting student data. For example, organizations offer educational financial data in digital form, the U.S. Department tutoring and supplemental services to students, but the legal of Education should determine the appropriate level of aggre- status of the data they collect is unclear. Issues include whether gation for financial data collection90 and amount of time that parents and regulators have the same rights to the data as they should elapse between expenditure and publication, based on have with school records. A relatively small change in the law to trends in market pricing. allow parents to combine data from outside sources with school data would provide a richer picture of students’ learning needs ReCoMMeNDaTioN 11.13: the u.s. department of educa- so all providers can support them effectively. There may also be tion should provide a simple request for Proposal (rFP) cases in which fine-grained levels of privacy control are appro- online “broadcast” service where vendors can register to priate. For example, students should be able to select and share receive rFP notifications from local or state educational their best work with other educational institutions, the military agencies within various product categories. or future employers from within their digital portfolios or other In addition to financial data transparency standards for edu- materials linked to electronic educational records. cation, the federal government can provide RFP notification services—similar to RSS feeds on the traditional Internet— ReCoMMeNDaTioN 11.12: the u.s. department of educa- where vendors could register to receive notifications of new tion should develop digital financial data transparency RFPs and where local educational agencies (LEAs) could trans- standards for education. it should collaborate with state mit their RFPs when they want to receive maximum exposure and local education agencies to encourage adoption and and bidding for a purchasing contract.91 This would make it develop incentives for the use of these standards. easier for LEAs to find vendors with products or services they The public education system is highly decentralized, with want to purchase. Past RFPs could be stored in a central reposi- total annual spending of hundreds of billions of dollars.87 tory as they are posted, providing useful historical data. Escalating expenditures in education have not resulted in This product pricing information database and RFP broad- improvement in student gains.88 Public education finances cast service could together give many LEAs the opportunity are a matter of public record. But it is difficult—if not impos- to improve their ability to find and acquire the best product or sible—to aggregate this information because it is stored in a service at the best price. distributed manner across thousands of county, district and regional administrative agencies. As a result, decisions about 11.3 ModernIZInG how to invest resources in education are often made without the benefit of understanding what investments have the great- edUcatIonaL est impact. The benefits of improving access to these financial data over BroadBand the Internet could be significant. State and local education agencies, academic researchers and others could more easily InFrastrUctUre gather and analyze financial data to inform resource alloca- tion decisions at the school, district, state and national levels, as well as research and policy questions about the educational Congress directed the FCC in 1996 to provide discounts on impact of financial decisions. In addition, the availability of telecommunications and other services “to elementary schools, school expenditure data in machine-readable format may mo- secondary schools and libraries for educational purposes”92 tivate the development of new applications and tools for school and authorized the FCC to support broadband services as part communities, districts and other support organizations to help of that program.93 In response, the FCC developed the Schools them manage finances more effectively. and Libraries universal service support mechanism (also F e d e r a l c o m m u n i c a t i o n s c o m m i s s i o n | n a t i o n a l b r o a d b a n d P l a n 2 3 5
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