New federal grants are funding the development of data systems that rely on students’ Social Security numbers, even as Maine’s law requiring collection of those numbers is in doubt.

The U.S. Department of Labor awarded Maine’s labor department $1 million this week to enable state officials to continue work on unifying state databases that track work force, public school, higher education and job training information.

“This is all going to contribute to what I think will become one of the most comprehensive longitudinal data systems in the country,” said John Dorrer, director of the Center for Workforce Research and Information in the state Department of Labor.

The $1 million is one of 13 awards totaling $12.2 million that the U.S. Department of Labor gave to states. The other states receiving money are Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

It is the second federal grant that Maine has received in six months to support development of its longitudinal data system. The Maine Department of Education received a $7.3 million award in May.

Longitudinal data systems — which proponents say enable researchers and education officials to determine the effectiveness of particular academic and job training programs by assessing their graduates’ success in the workplace — have been a top education reform priority of the Obama administration.

The administration’s signature Race to the Top competition, for example, rated states’ applications based in part on their plans for developing such systems.

“When we build this and finally have this all come together,” Dorrer said, “we’ll be able to, in as comprehensive a way as possible, take a look at the relationship between work force outcomes and education and training.”

The objective is to aggregate students’ data, Dorrer said, not to track individual students.

But the mechanism that state officials will have for making those connections — students’ Social Security numbers — is in doubt.

Maine school boards passed resolutions throughout the summer calling for repeal of the law requiring that their schools collect Social Security numbers. Some schools sent notices to parents discouraging them from sharing their children’s Social Security numbers.

In late September, the Maine Department of Education put the collection on hold after a system error allowed a school technology director to see the Social Security numbers of other school districts’ employees. The department is awaiting the outcome of an outside security review before it moves ahead.

Gov.-elect Paul LePage has said he opposes collecting students’ Social Security numbers, and at least one state lawmaker, Rep. Matt Peterson, D-Rumford, has filed a preliminary bill request seeking to outlaw Social Security number collection.

“The Department of Education made a case for the collection of this data, but the case seems much less compelling to some policy makers now that the implementation phase has been reached,” Peterson said in October.

Dorrer said the privacy concerns that have been raised about the longitudinal data program are “very real and genuine,” but the Social Security number is key to connecting education data with work force data. Workers, after all, submit their Social Security numbers to employers.

“It’s good that we have the debate,” he said. “I hope it leads to strengthening data systems as opposed to walking away from it entirely.”

Bill Hurwitch, the data system’s project director in the Maine Department of Education, said education officials are continuing to develop the data system with the assumption that Social Security numbers will be used.

If the law is repealed, he said, “it’s not going to stop us from working with the Department of Labor.” Using the Social Security number “just facilitates” the collaboration, Hurwitch said.

Dorrer said those who are working on linking data systems will weigh alternatives for tracking students.

“There may be other kinds of options on the table,” he said. “This will cause all of us to think very seriously and deeply about ‘How do we do this and protect the confidentiality of all those involved?’“