The following commentary, by Southern California News Group editorial writer Susan Shelley, first appeared in The Orange County Register. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Techwire or its parent, eRepublic.

California is making plans to track your children.

Starting at birth and continuing until your kids are grown up and in the workforce, California’s new “Cradle to Career Data System” will collect data from “partner entities” in order to “provide appropriate interventions and supports to address disparities in opportunities and improve outcomes for all students.”

The “partner entities” include (but are not limited to) “state entities responsible for elementary and secondary education data, entities responsible for early learning data, segments of public higher education, private colleges and universities, state entities responsible for student financial aid, childcare providers, state labor and workforce development agencies, and state departments administering health and human services programs.”

Easily the creepiest thing to come out of California since “The Silence of the Lambs” was released into theaters, the “Cradle to Career Data System” aims to collect the ethnic, economic and educational records of every child in the state, track their grades and their progress into early adulthood, and make some form of the data available to policymakers, analysts and activists.

The budget appropriates $10 million to get this party started. A new “Cradle to Career” work group will examine how the data system could identify individuals by “race, ethnicity, region, gender, military status, parents' education and age” and track “the impact of early education on student success and achievement as a student progresses through education segments and the workforce.”

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research is now authorized to enter into contracts with “planning facilitators” who will convene advisory groups “comprised of representatives of students, parents, labor, business and industry, equity and social justice organizations, researchers, privacy experts, early education experts, school districts, charter schools, and county offices of education.”

This measure didn’t go through the usual legislative process, which typically includes a number of committee hearings and votes. The “Cradle to Career Data System” was enacted as part of a budget trailer bill, negotiated essentially in secret and presented to lawmakers as a done deal for an up-or-down vote.

Whose idea was this?

A hint can be found on social media by searching the hashtag, #Data4ThePeople. One activist group called The Education Trust-West has put out an “Equity Alert” to supporters that describes the “Cradle to Career Data System” as “an important win.”

“Advocates have been demanding data for the people in the Golden State for years,” the Equity Alert explains, to “answer key questions about whether and how our state schools, colleges, universities, and workforce systems are closing racial equity gaps and serving Californians.”

It sounds as if the goal is to go beyond laws that ban discrimination and beyond affirmative action into a brave new world, one in which government bureaucrats tally the economic success of each racial and ethnic group and subgroup and award government funding in an effort to reach “equity.”

Even if you agree with that goal, it’s fair to question whether the best way to accomplish it is to set up a database that, if breached or used improperly, would expose the personal and educational records of every child in California to hackers or data merchants.

In acknowledgment of the risks, the work group will include privacy experts. That’s not very reassuring. If there’s one thing we’ve all learned by now, it’s that even the most high-tech and tech-savvy of companies can suffer catastrophic data breaches. How many times have you received one of those letters offering a year of free credit monitoring?

And if there’s another thing we’ve all learned by now, it’s that California has a terrible track record in technology projects.

But regardless of the risks or the track record, $10 million of your money is on its way to “facilitators” and “planners” and “consultants” to start working on the work group.

If that sounds familiar, it may be because this is how the bullet train got started. So the good news is, this “Cradle to Career” train wreck will probably never happen.

The bad news is that $10 million is only the start of the money this project is going to waste.

(c)2019 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.