Fairfax County increases five-year contract to $2.4 million to Panorama Education, a government contractor cofounded by son-in-law of U.S. Attorney General

Incidents


Cofounder Aaron Feuer spoke in 2013, as the company launched.

On Sept. 9, 2021, Fairfax County Public Schools signed “Amendment 2,” a new agreement to pay $2,445,300 to Panorama Education to collect confidential data on “all” 180,000+ K-12 Fairfax County Public School children, a $599,640 increase over the already outrageous $1,845,660 contract inked on June 8, 2021. 

Parents criticized the contract as data mining of children. A parent notified Parents Defending Education in mid-September that Panorama Education was cofounded by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s son-in-law, raising questions about whether Garland has a conflict of interest in issuing a memo in early October targeting parents protesting school board decisions, such as the Panorama Education contract.

1. Original contract from June 8, 2021: $1,845,660

2. New contract from Sept. 9, 2021: $2,445,300

In September 2021, Fairfax County Public School quietly signed “Amendment No. 2: Social Emotional Learning Screener” for contract 4400010525, with Boston-based private contractor Panorama Education. This expanded contract will now allow Panorama Education, a for-profit company funded in part by Mark Zuckerberg, well-known for harvesting and monetizing data, to screen “all” Fairfax children and conduct psychometric evaluations and create psychological profiles. 

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg and his physician wife Priscilla Chan are investors in Panorama Education, raising questions among northern Virginia parents about the consulting firm engaging in the controversial practice of “data mining,” on the pretense of “social and emotional learning,” known as “SEL.”

Also raising concern among parents, the school district is using emergency COVID relief funds signed into law on March 20, 2021, after Congress set aside about $13.2 billion of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund). The so-called ESSER Fund was designed to “address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the Nation.”

Parents are raising issues about how COVID relief money is being wasted on contractors instead of focusing on learning loss, as the school district recently saw with Standards of Learning scores plummeting for students in northern Virginia.

FCPS Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund

“Section 5: Addressing Students’ Academic, Social, Emotional, and Mental Health Needs. FCPS will use approximately $78.8 million, or 42 percent, of its ARP Act ESSER III funds to ensure our schools are welcoming and culturally responsive to all students and families.”

In addition, Panorama Education will receive “FCPS Confidential Student Records” and “non-directory information” for all 180,000+ Fairfax County public school students, including some as young as five. Teachers will answer screener questions for students in grades K-2, on deeply personal questions, such as whether the child seems “happy.”

The original contract signed on June 8 planned for a slow piloted rollout with three different cohorts and a planned three-year ramp up. Instead, on September 9, Fairfax County Public Schools decided to screen every Fairfax student beginning mid-October 2021 at a cost of $2,445,300 over a five-year period. 

The original contract notes: “Confidential Students Records” will be shared with Panorama Education without transparency to parents as will additional student information considered “non-directory information” 

The opt-out form, however, states: “Screener data will only be accessible to teachers, administrators, and staff with legitimate educational interests. Results will be maintained in secure files and databases accessible only to these individuals.”

The June contract with Panorama says in fine print that “the Company and its Authorized Representative shall be deemed to be school officials of the School Board.”

Fairfax County Public Schools has hosted no public comment meetings or opportunities to discuss the “SEL Screener.” Details on protecting student data and confidentiality are unknown. 

Link to Contract Details

Sept. 14, 2020 RFP: 2000003156 
RFP Addendum 3 
RFP Addendum 2 
RFP Addendum 1 
June 8, 2021: Acceptance Agreement, $1,845,660
June 21, 2021: Amendment 1 – revised notice of award
June 21, 2021: Notice of Award 
Sept. 9, 2021 Revised agreement: Amendment 2, $2,445,300 — This was not posted in early September when media queries went to FCPS.Opt-out form.

Read the ORIGINAL DISPATCH here: Parents Defending  Education has learned that Fairfax County Public Schools quietly signed a five-year contract to pay an out-of-state consulting firm, Panorama Education, $1,845,600 from COVID emergency funds for a “Social Emotional Learning Universal Screener” program that will collect personal and private data on 190,000 students districtwide and implement “interventions.”

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg and his physician wife Priscilla Chan are investors in Panorama Education, raising questions among northern Virginia parents about the consulting firm engaging in the controversial practice of “data mining,” on the pretense of “social and emotional learning,” known as “SEL.”

References

“Merrick Garland Has a Conflict of Interest