April 12, 2000
For Immediate Release

Andrew Hagelshaw, Center for Commercial-Free Public Education 510 268-1100
Arnold F. Fege, Center Board of Directors 202-628-7460 ext. 227

House Passes Student Privacy Amendment
Center for Commercial-Free Public Schools Applauds Rep. George Miller for Support

Washington, DC— Today, the House of Representatives Education and Workforce Committee approved an amendment proposed by Representative George Miller (D-CA) that will serve to protect against invasion of student privacy through commercialism in public schools. The "Student Privacy Protection Act" would make it mandatory to secure written, informed consent from parents before federal money could be used for any program that takes their children’s personal information at school. In a vote that had bipartisan support, all of the Democrats and 5 Republicans voted for the measure which was amended to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the largest federal education bill now being reauthorized by Congress.

"This is a clear victory for students and families," said Andrew Hagelshaw, Executive Director of the Center for Commercial-Free Public Education. "It is our experience that school commercialism is all about taking advantage of a captive audience of kids for the purposes of marketing brand name products to young people. The public, and parents in particular, are always the last to hear about what is happening with in-school advertising. This act is the first step towards changing that situation."

Commercialism in America’s classrooms is reaching epidemic proportions, with new forms of in-school advertising being discovered every week. Recent articles in TIME magazine and the New York Times have chronicled some examples, such as the McGraw-Hill math textbook for six graders that includes advertising. Schemes such as ZapMe offer schools "free" computers but contractually obligate schools to use software that collects personal data about their students.

"The bottom line here is that commercialism in schools is the opposite of local control," added Mr. Hagelshaw. "Many ads in schools convey messages to children that their parents and teachers don’t want them to learn, and several new schemes take personal information in inappropriate ways without parental knowledge. If the federal government believes in local control of education, they should do everything in their power to curb commercialism and make the public aware of the issues. For this reason we thank Congressman Miller for introducing this important legislation." It is expected that ESEA will move to the House floor within the next month for consideration.

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