Again without notice on the publicly available agenda documents, the Senate took up the confirmation votes for several major commissioners, including Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius, about whom we raised many significant concerns in our last alert. The Senate Republican Caucus deserves great thanks and congratulations. Despite being in the minority and having several other candidates about whom they could have raised concerns, they decided to take their stand by discussing in detail two of the many statutory violations and constitutional sidesteps that we listed in that update in order to make the very necessary points about this commissioner’s violation of separation of powers and the rule of law.
The effort was led by Senator Sean Nienow, Ranking Minority Member for the Education Finance Division, who made a motion to re-refer the appointment to the Education Committee until the Administrative Law Judge Barbara Nielson finishes ruling on whether the DOE under this commissioner has violated the statutes covering the extensive rewriting of the standards and benchmarks. He did an excellent job of explaining how it was not about the social studies standards or qualifications, but how important it was to delay the vote until the judge ruled in order to uphold legislative authority. He was ably assisted by Minority Leader David Hann, Ranking Member on the Education Policy Committee, Carla Nelson, as well as Senators Paul Gazelka and Scott Newman. They effectively argued against the misstatements of Education Committee Chairwoman Patricia Torres Ray and Senator Dick Cohen. Ultimately, however being in the minority was the deciding factor, and the motion to re-refer was defeated on a vote of 26-39 and the confirmation going through on a vote 45-20.
Please see below for details such as roll call votes, links to the video, summary, and quotes. More importantly, please contact and thank Senate Minority Leader David Hann (651-296-1749) and Senator Sean Nienow (651-296-5419), as well as the others listed and your own senator if appropriate (info here). This incident gives us hope that there are senators that won’t roll over and play dead and that are willing to do what is right even if in the minority. Let us keep encouraging our legislators to stand on these important principles!
With almost no forewarning to allow the public to prepare testimony, the Minnesota Senate Education Committee recommended the confirmation of Education Commissioner Brenda Casselius. Although committee Republicans asked some good questions, there was ultimately little that they could do given Democrat control. The nomination was forwarded to the full Senate on a voice vote with only slight dissent. We have just found out that the full Senate vote will likely occur tomorrow, Monday, February 4th. Although it is unlikely to stop her final confirmation, Education Liberty Watch wants the public and the legislature to conduct the upcoming vote with their eyes wide open as to the alarmingly long list of legal and constitutional violations and sidesteps committed by this commissioner. Please consider forwarding this list to your senator (contact info here), regardless of party, so that they know what they are doing as they cast their vote, and so that you may hold them accountable in the future.
- Constitutional Consistency: Both of the major Department of Education documents submitted to the judge during the standards hearing process (Statement of Need and Reasonableness SONAR and their Response to testimony) fail to mention the statutory requirement that the standards “be consistent with the Constitutions of the United States and the state of Minnesota.” (120B.021, Subd. 2b3). Our testimony noted, “The focus on globalization and reliance of the [standards] committee and the SONAR on a document titled “Preparing Citizens for a Global Community” and making the statement on page 35, “Several leading social studies sources support the need for students to develop skills to become effective global citizens,” seems to be emphasizing loyalty to entities and governance outside of the US and is inconsistent with the US Constitution.”
- Benchmarks: These are the specific smalller ideas under each standard. After the big fight over standards and benchmarks in 2003 and 2004, Minnesota Statute 120B.023, subdivision 1(c) was passed that says, “Once established, the commissioner may change the benchmarks only with specific legislative authorization and after completing a review under subdivision 2.” There has clearly been no act of the legislature to do this and the Department’s response to this concern basically says that because it is more convenient for them to do so and because they have done it for other subjects, they may disobey the law.
- Revise and Align: Minnesota Statute 120B.023, subdivision 2(f) states, “The commissioner in the 2010-2011 school year must revise and align the state’s academic standards and high school graduation requirements in social studies to require that students satisfactorily complete the revised social studies standards beginning in the 2013-2014 school year. The commissioner must implement a review of the academic standards and related benchmarks in social studies beginning in the 2019-2020 school year.” As stated in Senator Hann’s written testimony (page 12) and Senator Olson’s hearing request(page 1), the Department has gone far beyond the specific and limited authority of “revise and align.” They have done a wholesale rewrite.
- Academic Rigor: Minnesota statute, 120B.02, subd, (b)(1) states that, “the rule is intended to raise academic expectations for students, teachers, and schools.” The extensive testimony at the public hearing on the social studies standards by subject matter experts and college professors shows that these new standards are far from rigorous. In addition, the social studies standards are linked to the Common Core English Standards, which have been evaluated to be at a 6th to 8th grade level.
- College Readiness: As stated in Minnesota statute 120B.03 and explained on page 30 of the SONAR, the standards by law are to “identify the academic knowledge and skills that prepare students for postsecondary education, work and civic life in the twenty-first century.” Four current or past college professors and content matter experts have extensively testified that these standards do not comply with that legislative intent, including a college professor that teaches future teachers (MacPherson) and a former professor that has been involved in standards development for many states and test development for NAEP and CIVITAS (Fonte).
Thanks to you, we are well on our way to collecting hundreds of signatures to present to the judge calling for a halt to the horrific proposed social studies standards. However, we have also received reports that some people were having trouble finding the link to the petition in our last email. So, just to be clear, the dedicated link is:
There are buttons on that site to post the petition link to your followers on Facebook and Twitter. We would be grateful if you would do that as well. We will stop collecting petition signatures at 10 AM CST on January 9th in order to be able to get the letter and signatures ready to submit. The deadline for submitting written comments to Judge Nielson at email@example.com is 4:30 PM CST on January 9th. A link to the standards and other details may be found here. The standards of greatest concern to us may be found here. The hearing report contains some of the excellent testimony. See below for more quotes and links to other testimony to which we have received access, as well as Education Liberty Watch and Dr. Karen Effrem in the media. Thanks and please keep it up!!
“…As a college professor, I agree with Dr. Debbi Daniels, who has stated that these revised standards will not equip students for college. Minnesota statutes require that public education prepare students for college, but these new standards will fail to fulfill that legislative mandate…”
“…In summary, the current standard covering the American Revolution concisely summarizes that historic episode, whereas the proposed revision introduces error and confusion…”
“… Suffice it to say, the proposed revisions are academically inferior to the current standards. The Minnesota Department of Education has claimed in its SONAR document to have followed the pattern of several states that it identifies as “exemplary.” But the standards of those “exemplary” states in fact include Western Civilization as a key organizing principle and assign specific standards to the Renaissance and Reformation.
I also concur with Mrs. Quist, who emphasized the distinction between natural rights and so called individual rights. Natural rights are part of human nature, whereas individual rights can be created or destroyed by government. One person who understood this well was John F. Kennedy. I quote from his inaugural address, where he asserted that “the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.” Kennedy understood natural rights just as surely as Jefferson and Lincoln. The current standards teach this; the new revisions do not.
Moreover, I maintain that the Department of Education has failed to meet the required burden of proof to demonstrate that the proposed changes are either necessary or appropriate from a legal standpoint. The SONAR document insinuates that Minnesota will lose federal funding unless these new standards are adopted, but the Department has failed to show that the current standards fall short of federal and state requirements (other than the relatively simple matter of changing grade bands into grade-level benchmarks) or that these particular revision proposals are the most prudent means of complying with federal or state requirements.”
“I believe American students should be competitive, and should rate at the top of the list compared to other countries. Sadly, currently we fall somewhere in the middle of the pack. Instead of these pro-global and anti-American standards why don’t we raise the ceiling and the floor of the current student academic achievement? Instead of touting pro-globalism, why don’t we emphasize and return to the values, morals, and principles upon which our Republic was founded? In just over 200 years, Americans have made more progress than the entire human race has done in over 5000 years. I propose that we concentrate on educating our students and developing their skills so they become more disciplined, responsible, and productive Americans, instead of more effective global citizens “
”I am not suggesting that American history should be cleansed of the sins of our past. One of the most healing and encouraging developments in U.S. History instruction in the past ten years is the introduction of detailed instruction on the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and the concurrent distinguished U.S. military service of many Japanese Americans. As a History Day judge in the Wayzata School District, I have been gratified to see that student projects about these topics portray both injustice and justice, and how even a community oppressed by racism and bigotry can remain steadfastly patriotic, even challenging the majority to live up to the American ideals of The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and our Founders.
I implore the Department of Education to teach Minnesota’s youth about the ideals of our country’s founding, and challenge them to live up to those ideals. As Ronald Reagan said, ‘Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.’ Such instruction will also protect future generations from oppression. As Karl Marx is credited with saying, ‘Take away a people’s heritage and they are easily persuaded.’”
The Late Debate 1/4/13 (first segment) on Twin Cities Newstalk AM 1130
The Northern Alliance Radio Network with Mitch Berg 1/5/13 (at about halfway thru the first hour) on AM 1280 the Patriot
The Sue Jeffers Show 1/5/13 (Starting at 33:14) on Twin Cities Newstalk AM 1130
Minnesota Social Studies Standards: Critics Target Changes 12/19/12 by Megan Boldt St. Paul Pioneer Press
The petition letter (http://edlibertywatch.org/social-studies-standards-petition/) opposing the proposed Minnesota social studies standards to administrative law judge Barbara Nielson is now ready to be signed. We will collect signatures and then forward them with the letter to the judge, who will accept this letter and signatures as written testimony. It will only take a couple of minutes. Please sign, including your full name and address, which will not be visible on our website and share with your social networks. The deadline is Wednesday, January 9th at 4:30 PM Central Time. You do not need to be a Minnesota resident to sign the letter. If you wish to submit your own individual testimony, you may email it to the judge at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to reference OAH Docket No. 11-1300-30011 in your comments.
Other details and some of the testimony against the standards are available here and here. Some other testimony that we did not have is available from the hearing here. Other written testimony will also be up on this site very soon. Thank you for your support and help!
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