Karen R. Effrem, MD – President
The appalling report of government agents demanding inspection of preschoolers’ lunch, judging the home packed lunch not adequately nutritious, seizing the contents, and then billing the family for the government imposed mystery meat nuggets has rightly stirred a storm of controversy. American citizens living in what they thought was the “land of the free and the home of the brave” might be tempted to think that this is just an isolated incident and wouldn’t apply to them or that it only deals with lunch. However, after review of the tyrannical requirements and goals of multiple other government programs for young children, the idea from the classic Bachman Turner Overdrive tune “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” is far more apropos.
Education Liberty Watch has been warning of the dangers to freedom, parental autonomy, academics, and health of programs like quality rating systems (QRIS), Head Start, home visiting, mental health screening, and the preschool Race to the Top (RTT-ELC) for a long time. However, we will focus on Race to the Top because it is the most current and the most comprehensive example of the efforts to consolidate government control over young children in so many interconnected and overarching ways.
The preschool situation is analogous to what is going on in health care. Unfortunately though, instead of fighting against the federalization of preschool the way they have against the federalization of health care, many Republicans have been deceived by big business and liberal foundations that government preschool will somehow close achievement gaps and be the next silver bullet in education. This is despite the facts that there is no evidence of long-term academic gain for children involved in preschool (in fact there is actual evidence of academic harm), and the very people who have presided over the destruction of K-12 public education in this nation – the federal government and unions – want to now control preschool education as well.
The following excerpts are from a summary of the big government nanny-state plans from all of the applicants for the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge at a recent forum held in Washington, DC and put on by the Early Learning Challenge Collaborative. For the sake of time and space, here are some highlights of the most chillingly freedom robbing initiatives from the nine winners of the $550 million boondoggle (Only winning applications will be discussed for time and space reasons. Text in bold italic font is added emphasis) :
1) More Lunch Box Monitoring – Delaware in its application highlighted plans to expand its health and nutrition guidelines and “will include an online version of a toolkit that includes a self-assessment, nutrition rules, tools to plan healthy eating, feeding guidelines, family engagement guidance, and physical activity guidelines.” It sounds as though we will soon be hearing similar stories out of Delaware as we did out of North Carolina.
2) Cradle to Grave Data Tracking (Big Brother is Watching) – Several grant winning states are expanding their educational data tracking to include the subjective kindergarten readiness assessments, including California Minnesota and Ohio, but of the winning applications, Rhode Island’s seem the most ominous: “Rhode Island’s proposed early learning data system will be linked to both the state’s K-12 data system and to the state’s universal newborn screening and health data system, helping to identify children with high needs, track participation in programs, and track children’s development and learning.” This is a classic example of the rapidly expanding philosophy that the government owns every single bit of medical and education data about you and every family member from conception until after death. We are seeing this played out in the realm of DNA medical data and now private mental health data through these subjective and worthless assessments that will be added and linked to health data so that government bureaucrats will be able to label the young children they consider to be mentally ill or “at risk” of being so labeled. This is an expansion of the data system that we have been fighting for many years that was recently expanded in the K-12 Race to the Top.
3) Imposition of Government Mental Health Curricula Through 3rd Grade – Our last alert described the brazen admission by Minnesota, one of the nine winners, in its application that the quality rating system of which Minnesota is so proud actually requires implementation of the radical state preschool standards. That however, is not enough, for the nanny state bureaucrats in Minnesota. They now plan to also impose “non-academic developmental domains for children ages five to 12.” This means that the state government plans to decide what will be normal for ALL children ages birth to twelve in the state of Minnesota to think, believe, and behave. As described below, the increased developmental screenings in California, North Carolina, and Maryland, is likely to be based on either more socioemotional standards or an expanded emphasis on them. Education Liberty Watch has long opposed these standards in Minnesota because they will further dilute academics in curriculum and because they will allow for the imposition of both mental health screening and politically correct indoctrination.
4) Infant and Young Child Mental Screening – “California will offer additional provider training in assessing social-emotional learning and ensure greater access to developmental and behavioral screenings.” “The health and developmental screening system will expand to cover all children” in North Carolina. Maryland plans to expand its preschool assessments to twice yearly in seven different domains including socioemotional screening, which is the same as mental health. “Massachusetts will scale up a statewide assessment system from birth to third grade,” which will presumably include a socioemotional component. Education Liberty Watch has written much about the dangers of mental health screening due to its subjective nature and the great likelihood of leading to labeling and drugging of even very young children with dangerous, ineffective and expensive psychiatric medications.
5) Preschool Standards Aligned with Common Core Standards and or K-3 Standards – Rhode Island explicitly admits plans to align their preschool standards with the Common Core Standards for K-3. California, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, and Washington. Given Ohio’s big expansion of assessment and high score on the assessment part of the application, one would think there is also an emphasis, or at least an expansion, of early childhood standards. Most, if not all of these states have imposed the Common Core Standards already and so are be default likely aligning their preschool standards to their K-3 standards.
6) Womb to Tomb Services – The already alarmingly high amount of government dependence will increase as several states plan to offer or expand various types of comprehensive government based health and education services. For instance, “a ‘Transformation Zone’ made up of a set of rural communities with high needs in northeastern North Carolina will be eligible for focused programs designed to improve the lives of young children and families.” “Delaware will create ‘Readiness Teams’ in target communities. Anchored around low-performing elementary schools serving high concentrations of children with high needs, these teams will involve all key stakeholders that provide services across the birth-to-eight continuum within each local community. “Culturally and linguistically appropriate supports for families will be provided” by Massachusetts via 107 different grants funded by the federal RTT-ELC grant. Ohio also mentions “seamless alignment [of] early education and development policies across state agencies birth to kindergarten entry.”
7) Mandatory QRIS Participation – Although a quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) was the key requirement of the federal RTT-ELC application, the preface to the individual state highlights in the Early Learning Challenge Collaborative report the two main ways states are imposing this terrible idea on states. The first is to require participation in the QRIS in order to maintain licensure, which is happening in the winning states of North Carolina and Washington. The second is requiring QRIS participation in order to receive public funds, which is happening in the winning states of Delaware and Maryland. Though not listed, as previously described, Minnesota is basically doing the same thing in the implementation of its scholarship program.
The bottom line of all of these “winning” applications as well as those that have not yet been able to belly up to the taxpayer funded trough, is that government tyranny and control is expanding over the education, raising, medical care, thoughts and beliefs of even our nation’s youngest children. This whole idea is yet another way that America is running in the wrong direction to catch up to the failed, expensive and even harmful ideas of Europe that even they are warning us to stop before it is too late. The programs are ineffective, dangerous, and expensive when our nation is already teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. This is one more example of the Obama administration’s war on liberty and families. Sadly, they are joined by some big government Republicans who are egged on by left-leaning corporations and foundations that are more interested in taxpayer funded childcare and government imposed curriculum than in freedom, free markets and independent thinking. As with Obamacare, the window to stop this latest assault on liberty is very narrow. The liberty of future generations depends on our response right now.
WHAT TO DO:
1) Urge Congress to stop funding Race to the Top in any form.
2) Urge Congress to significantly defund or eliminate Head Start, which even a Time Magazine editorial said should be done.
3) Urge Congress to support the Parental Consent Act by Rep. Ron Paul in the House (HR 2769) and Senator Rand Paul (S 1800) that requires informed, opt-in parental consent for any federally funded program that involves mental screening.
3) States should withdraw from the RTT ELC given that the grant money will create lots of expensive, liberty-robbing unfunded mandates in the future
4) Legislatures should consider defunding, dismantling, and privatizing quality rating systems to preserve the autonomy of independent and religious childcare programs, providing conscientious objection clauses to the radical preschool standards, and finding other ways to measure quality other than imposing these standards and curriculum on providers and families.
5) Support family formation and two parent families in welfare and divorce reform.
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