Transparency issues with the College and Career Interest Taskforce

In May 2018, a bill was introduced in the IL Senate that would have had the IL State Board of Education administer a survey of all high school juniors in conjunction with the administration of the state test and share the survey data with all public institutions of higher education in Illinois. After opposition from RYH Action, the bill was amended instead to set up a taskforce to study this type of data sharing (PA 100-1007).

The College and Career Interest Taskforce's purpose is "to determine the process by which Illinois public high school student college or career interest data may be collected and shared amongst public institutions of higher education." Raise Your Hand Action co-director Cassie Creswell is one of 30 members appointed to the task force. 

The bill that created the task force was part of a package of bills intended to help repair the damage that the two year budget impasse wrought on the public universities and colleges in Illinois, in particular leading Illinois high school students to pursue post-secondary education outside of Illinois. 

The task force has now met twice, once in Springfield on November 8th and once as a simultaneous video conference in both Springfield and Chicago on December 6th. All appointees to the task force were required to undergo training on ethics and on the Open Meetings Act.

At the December 6th meeting, the chair of the task force, Dr. Eric Lichtenberger, refused to allow the meeting to be recorded. In addition, he stated that there were no official minutes from the November 8th meeting of the task force and, a member of the public who called into the meeting was told that he could listen to the meeting but would not be given a chance to participate.  

All of these violate the requirements of the OMA for how a public body's meetings are to be run: Anyone can audio record a public meeting without permission (there are a few categories of restrictions on video recording). Public meetings must have minutes that are then approved by the public body at the next meeting. And any public meeting needs to have time provided for public participation.

In response to these violations, Cassie Creswell sent a letter to the chair, the sponsors of the bill and the executive director of the IL Board of Higher Education, which is the agency that is administering the task force. (Read it here.) She also submitted a request for review to the Public Access Counselor of the IL Attorney General's office of the procedures of the December 6th meeting.

As stated in the letter, in light of the nature of this task force’s undertaking—determining the process by which the personally-identifiable information of all Illinois public high school students could be shared with institutions outside their local school district—our organization feels it imperative that this task force operate with the utmost transparency for Illinois public school families. 

Complying with the OMA is not optional for a public body because, as stated in the OMA itself, public bodies "exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business and that the people have a right to be informed as to the conduct of their business."

For some background reading on the role of big data and algorithms in college admissions, see our reading list.

 

[Image used via Creative Commons]