Apr 5, 2011

Rebuttal Regarding Parent Aware

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It seems that the liberal/progressive proponents of expansion of the state early childhood bureaucracy and government control of the  education of our children from the womb are upset with the House’s wise vote last week to get rid of the Parent Aware quality rating system and the Senate’s equally wise vote to keep it out of each chamber’s education spending bill.  Instead of engaging in a healthy debate about the merits or lack thereof of this important public policy issue, both writers refused to say anything about the very substantive reasons that both the Minnesota Family Council and Education Liberty Watch opposed that very questionable piece of legislation.  Here is Education Liberty Watch’s response, since attempts to post comments on the website are currently blocked:

Mr. Smith,

With all due respect right back at you, perhaps both you and Ms. Hawkins could do a little more reasonable investigative reporting of the reasons for the opposition of both Education Liberty Watch and the Minnesota Family Council to the idea of creating a new statewide bureaucracy that puts all sorts of unnecessary mandates on private child care businesses and preschools that “volunteer” to take the Parent Aware scholarship money before resorting to ad hominem attacks about uninformed religious and social conservatism.

Just to make your job a little easier, here is a summary (Extensive quotes and references are available in the early childhood section of our website.):

1) Both MELF’s own and national evaluators admit that there is no way to know if quality rating systems improve child outcomes or program quality.  (See Evidence on Effectiveness of Quality Rating Systems)

2) MELF’s evaluation shows that only 14% of eligible providers in the pilot areas enrolled in Parent Aware.

3) Again from MELF, only 25% of parents with children in Parent Aware Programs had even heard of Parent Aware, up from a whopping 20% the year before.  It is not exactly wildly popular, and parents even in the program are not using it to make informed childcare decisions. (See Evidence on Effectiveness of Quality Rating Systems)

4)Two thirds of the programs in the pilot project received a free pass of an automatic four star rating, including a number of Head Start programs.  Head Start in national studies published in 2010 has been found to have any positive beneficial effects fade by 1st grade, harm the math skills of 3 year olds and had several programs commit fraud regarding income verification. (See Studies on Effectiveness of Early Childhood Programs)

5) Besides the evidence of fade-out of beneficial effects by anywhere from the 1st to the 4th grade, there are many studies from leading universities that show that at best, academic achievement in the 4th grade, when the benefits of preschool would be most apparent, there is no improvement in achievement and at worst there is evidence of academic and emotional harm to children in these programs.  (See also Studies on Effectiveness of Early Childhood Programs)

6) If there was the return on investment claimed of 700-1800%, then why aren’t Warren Buffett and other venture capitalists investing in these programs? Why do they remain heavily subsidized by government with stagnant achievement scores and a persistent achievement gap?

7) This concept is not popular with either a majority of Republicans or with the public.  The House vote was 92% of Republicans to get rid of this and 100% of Republicans in the Senate, including the Senate author Geoff Michel, voted to keep it out.  Because a few Republicans or former Republicans, doing the business community’s bidding, support it, does not mean that is the “mainstream” view of all Republicans or the people that elected them.

8)  Unlike the economists and business people that you say are so mainstream, I being a mother and a pediatrician with a medical degree from Johns Hopkins, actually know something about child development.  It is not good for children to be started in academics too soon and it is not good for children and families to use tax dollars as corporate welfare to subsidize businesses’ child care costs and call it education.  This idea penalizes families who sacrifice to keep one parent at home to raise children.  I hope you would agree that being raised at home is ultimately the best for children.

I hope in the future you will consider having an actual respectful and informed debate of these important policy issues and actually report what the other side is saying.


Karen R. Effrem, MD

President – Education Liberty Watch

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