Mar 9, 2012

How Will Legislature Deal with Dayton DOE Lawlessness on QRS??

We have previously reported the Mark Dayton administration’s Department of Education has unilaterally expanded a pilot quality rating system (QRS) statewide, as well as tied the state and its childcare providers into the unconstitutional, ineffective, bureaucratic, and expensive Race to the Top preschool federal grant program and is requiring a state preschool scholarship program recipients to implement this QRS without statutory authority.

At a hearing of the House Education Finance Committee on January 26th, Chairman Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington), even though a great proponent of the QRS, expressed severe displeasure at the administration’s lawless behavior actually saying that he and other supporters like QRS bill author Rep. Jennifer Loon (R-Edina) had “been rolled” or cheated by the DOE. Rep. Garofalo was also highly displeased that the DOE showed not the slightest intention of working collaboratively on an implementation plan, but was there merely to report what they were going to do whether the legislature liked it or not. The concern over lack of statutory authority was also properly mentioned by another QRS proponent, Rep. Brandon Petersen (R-Andover), who is now running for the state senate, and who believes that the QRS is part of providing “efficient” government.

Other very important issues were raised by QRS opponents at that January hearing. House Education Policy Chairwoman Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) asked very good questions about the QRS requirement that any private or religious program that takes scholarship recipients must, in order to be three or four star rated, impose the radical Early Childhood Indicators of Progress (ECIP) without any opportunity for conscientious objection by the parents or providers. Some of the more egregious examples of these standards for 3-5 year olds include:

Develop an awareness of self as having certain abilities, characteristics, and preferences

Begin to develop awareness, knowledge, and acceptance of own gender and cultural identity

Use play to explore, practice, and understand social roles and relationships

Begin to understand and respond to others’ emotions

Recognize and describe the roles of workers in the community

Share responsibility in taking care of their environment

Show interest and respect for the creative work of self and others

What also needs to be explored more in depth is the Department’s plan as outlined in their Race to the Top application to add “non-academic developmental domains for children ages five to 12.” The last thing that Minnesota or any state needs is to have government entities deciding what is normal emotional development, thought, or behavior for all of the children in the state, when there is still significant debate among adults and professionals involved and this allows for such politically correct indoctrination.

QRS skeptic Rep. Keith Downey (R-Edina) also very properly stated his concerns both about creeping bureaucratic overreach and the specter of more childcare provider unionization efforts via these scholarships. The unionization issue is another where the Dayton administration has shown a particularly egregious disregard for constitutional separation of powers doctrine. Thankfully his legislation by executive order strategy of giving in to his union supporters to forcibly unionize independent business owners has been opposed and is being delayed if not hopefully stopped in the courts. However, until that decision is finally made, these scholarships have a significant probability of being used to designate more providers as state workers for purposes of unionization.

The question now remains, “What will the legislature do?” After the January hearing, the House Education Policy Committee patiently gave the Office of Early Learning the chance to submit new implementation plan that considers proper statutory authority. As of inquiries in the last couple of days, there has been no response to that request. Education Liberty Watch discussions with various legislators and staff indicate that there is still very justified and strong concern about the Department’s behavior. Ideas have ranged from reining in the QRS from a policy perspective to decreasing or rescinding funding for the scholarships.

Ideally, the whole QRS framework should be removed from statute. If there really is such a great desire for a QRS (evaluation data show that only 14% of eligible providers in the pilot areas wanted to be rated), it should be privately done in order to give it a true Consumer Reports or Underwriters Laboratory approach and protect providers and families from the massive government intrusion that is currently involved in the state QRS. In addition, any QRS that remains should not impose government approved standards, curriculum, and assessments; expand or the massive amount of family education, developmental, emotional, health, and financial data that is collected or proposed to be collected; and give providers and parents some type of conscientious objection to the standards that are currently required for rated programs to have their curriculum and assessments aligned.

Sadly, the efforts of legislators that want to do the right thing may be hampered by the lure of the $50 million unconstitutional, borrowed federal deficit dollars over the next several years that Minnesota “won” thanks to the Minnesota DOE’s unilateral action and the failure of the legislature to even write a letter of protest combined with pressure from the big business community’s unholy alliance with the forces of big government education.

It is up to each of us that care about the hearts and minds of our youngest children, the autonomy of private and religious childcare providers, parental rights, separation of powers and out of control state and federal spending to:

1)Thank Chairman Garofalo (651-296-1069 and Chairwoman Erickson (651-296-6746 and the other legislators for their efforts to hold the MN DOE accountable and to support them to finish the job by eliminating the QRS or at least getting rid of the scholarship funding or instituting the protections described above.

2)Contact chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, Gen Olson (R-Minnestrista) (651-296-1282 and ask her to please do the same.

3) Contact the leadership of the House and Senate and remind them that liberty to raise and educate our youngest children as we see fit is more important than evanescent government grants or campaign contributions from self-interested groups that want to use government means to further their own ends.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers  (651-296-5502

House Majority Leader Matt Dean (651-296-3018

Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem (651-296-3903

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