Written Testimony on SF 481/HF 1058 – Early Childhood Scholarships
Karen R. Effrem, MD
President – Education Liberty Watch
Although this bill is less onerous than the language in the governor’s education finance bill regarding parental rights, family sovereignty, and the rights of conscience, we still have a number of concerns
1) Internal language inconsistency – Lines 1.10-1.14 of the bill say:
1.10 Subd. 2. Duties. The Office of Early Learning shall administer the early learning
1.11scholarship program, establish participation standards for children and their families,
1.12develop criteria for qualifying providers based on section 124D.142, and contract for
1.13administrative services as necessary with a resource and referral organization under
1.14section 119B.19, or other nonprofit or public entity.
If the Office of Early Learning determines “criteria for qualifying providers” how does that square with lines 3.9-3.10 that say:
Subd. 7. Scholarship recipient choice of programs. A scholarship recipient may
3.10choose to apply to any rated program or prospective program for acceptance.
What is to say that the Office of Early Learning won’t say later that recipients must choose a 3 or 4 star rated program such as required in the governor’s finance bill? We are particularly concerned about the Parent Aware requirement to align curriculum and assessments to the Early Childhood Indicators of Progress (ECIP) in order to receive a three or four star rating, which I will discuss more below. We also want to know whether it is the language of this bill or the governor’s bill that will be included in final legislation and which part of the language of this bill.
2) Childcare and preschool programs that accept scholarship recipients will be considered subsidized for the purposes of unionization – This will increase costs and decrease access for these poor and middle class families analogously to what is happening to physicians who cannot afford to take care of Medicaid and Medicare patients under the Affordable Care Act.
3) Cost – The governor’s finance bill calls for a 733% increase in funding for these scholarships over current levels. This bill’s funding for 2014 is a 1,300% increase and a 1,750% increase in 2015 when there is still a deficit in Minnesota, much less the federal government, the threat of unionization and higher taxes, other needs in education, little proof that they will work, and a still quite shaky national economy.
4) Many large centers and Head Start programs receive automatic four star ratings putting small programs at a disadvantage – According to the Parent Aware evaluation two thirds of programs received automatic four star ratings. This is especially problematic for Head Start, when the most recent of over 600 studies released in 2010 and 2012 showed that there was no benefit to the program after 1st grade and harm to math skills of three year old participants. Smaller programs and individual providers will find it harder to compete.
5) Mandated curriculum standards for early childhood that apply to private and religious programs that take subsidies – If the 3 or 4 star rating requirement remains, all programs that take subsidized students must align their curriculum and assessments to the ECIP. This is especially problematic in the social and emotional area, because the state is now mandating one set of standards for thought, behavior, and belief that, no matter one view’s on any given subject, it is the right and authority of parents to inculcate those values in their children, not taxpayer funded education institutions. Doing ratings and assessments of little children and eventually teacher/caregiver merit pay systems on one set of very subjective standards like this is extraordinarily problematic. It could also lead to unnecessary over diagnosis and treatment for mental health issues. We have heard through the grapevine that these standards are being rewritten to remove some of the more controversial items. That is good, but we still question the authority of the state to be determining norms in this area at all and imposing them of private and religious providers. Some of the more egregious examples of the ECIP, with definitional quotes and my comments are as follows: Continue reading »
The childcare unionization attempt that was halted by a judge and about which we warned and reported in 2011 and 2012 (see background here and here) has returned with a vengeance in this legislative session under DFL control. Although more properly trying to unionize childcare and home care providers via legislation instead of executive order, this idea has many problems that are outlined below in the written testimony submitted by Education Liberty Watch in the hearing on SF 778, authored by Senator Sandy Pappas that occurred, March 4th in the Senate Local Government Committee. These include lack of constitutionality, higher costs and decreased access to childcare and home care workers for struggling poor and working families that receive state subsidies, including the early childhood scholarships proposed for a huge expansion this year. We understand that bills to increase government control over every aspect of our lives are coming at breakneck speed this legislative session, but if you care about small business’ freedom from forced unionization, the quality, cost and availability of childcare and home care, and the right to provide education and care for your family members without government interference, please consider contacting your legislators (House, Senate) and Governor Dayton. The March 4th hearing will be continued with a vote taken on SF 778 tomorrow, March 6th at 3 PM in Room 15 of the Capital, but the event is ticketed and no testimony will be taken. The House companion bill, HF 950, authored by Rep. Michael Nelson will be heard by the in the House Early Childhood and Youth Development Committee at 5:30 PM, Thursday March 7th, in Room 200 of the State Office Building. Thank you!
Education Liberty Watch’s written testimony prepared by Dr. Karen Effrem for the Senate hearing is linked here and available just below.
Dear Chairwoman Pappas, Ranking Member Hall, and Members of the Senate State and Local Government Committee,
Thank you for accepting this written testimony and for your concern for families in childcare and the providers that care for them. I am submitting this testimony as President of Education Liberty Watch, which is also a part of the Childcare Freedom Coalition.
We oppose this legislation for the following reasons:
1) This bill abrogates the First Amendment right of freedom of assembly – It will force small businesses that are run predominantly run by women or family members taking care of sick or elderly relatives to unionize against their will or to pay fair share fees.
2) Increased costs for working families – Providers will be forced to pass along the increased costs of union dues or fair share fees to their clients or in the case of home care providers caring for their own family members, have to absorb these increased costs when premiums, taxes on medical devices, etc. are increasing, the economy is still struggling and unemployment is still higher than it should be.
3) Decreased choice, especially for families receiving subsidies – If taking children who receive any kind of childcare subsidy, including the proposed Early Childhood Scholarships, or hiring any kind of homecare provider results in unionization, many of these small business owners will cease to take these children or provide care for these sick people – analogous to what is happening with the Affordable Care Act and doctors not being able to afford to care for Medicare and Medicaid patients.
4) Politically unpopular across a wide spectrum – This is not popular even among Democrats!! KSTP/Survey USA poll from 2011: “Should daycare workers in the state of Minnesota form labor unions and be considered as public employees?” 68% or survey respondents said no, with only 19% in favor of the idea. Opposition was the majority opinion across all noted demographics, including political affiliation. 73% of Republicans opposed the plan as well as 60% of Democrats and 70% of independents. (See the poll results at Survey USA, especially Question 3 at http://www.surveyusa.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=98e06008-a002-4bda-b2dc-d5093903734a). Many states that have had unionization laws have repealed them. Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat governor of the, or one of the most liberal states in the nation, vetoed a childcare unionization bill. When Minnesota House Democrats had the opportunity to vote to amend the unionization vote legislation into a bill, even Democrat legislators voted overwhelmingly against it. The vote on that was 16 in favor (all DFL members) to 114 opposed. (See House Journal, page 9336 at http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/cco/journals/2011-12/J0428112.htm#9336)
5) This could lead to teacher evaluations for preschool teachers and providers – As with unionized teachers dealing with the Common Core standards and their evaluations based on those standards and test results in K-12, even pro union childcare providers may not like all of the bureaucracy and loss of autonomy from being turned into teachers and assessors of young children having to teach, assess and be rated by one set of government mandated standards as the use of Parent Aware spreads across the state.
Thank you again for your consideration of our views in this important issue.
Proponents of All-Day Kindergarten say that the overwhelming preponderance of studies since the 1970’s and 1980’s show a positive benefit of all day kindergarten. Yet here are quotes from two large studies done after the year 2000, done by the federal government and the Rand Corporation, neither being conservative standard bearers, and a meta analysis of many studies that show there is fade out of any benefits, decrease in positive attitude towards school, and actual harm to math ability:
A meta-analysis found that attending full-day (or all-day) kindergarten had a positive association with academic achievement (compared to half-day kindergarten) equal to about one quarter standard deviation at the end of the kindergarten year. But the association disappeared by third grade. Reasons for this fade-out are discussed. Social development measures revealed mixed results. Evidence regarding child independence was inconclusive. Evidence was suggestive of a small positive association between full-day kindergarten and attendance and a more substantial positive association with the child’s self-confidence and ability to work and play with others. However, children may not have as positive an attitude toward school in full-day versus half-day kindergarten and may experience more behavior problems. In general, the research on full-day kindergarten would benefit from future studies that allow strong causal inferences and that include more nonacademic outcomes. The authors suggest that full-day kindergarten should be available to all children but not necessarily universally prescribed. Harris Cooper, Ashley Batts Allen, Erika A. Patall and Amy L. Dent – Effects of Full-Day Kindergarten on Academic Achievement and Social Development – REVIEW OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH 2010 80: 34 DOI: 10.3102/0034654309359185 http://rer.sagepub.com/content/80/1/34 3/24/10
We found that both academic and nonacademic school readiness skills at entry to kindergarten were significantly related to eventual reading and mathematics achievement in fifth grade. Controlling for nonacademic readiness skills at kindergarten entry eliminated the black-white achievement gap in reading at the fifth grade, while attending a full-day kindergarten was unrelated to reading performance. Attendance in a full-day kindergarten program was not related to achievement in mathematics in fifth grade except when nonacademic school readiness factors were included in the model. When those factors were considered, full-day attendance was negatively related to math achievement. In other words, after controlling for nonacademic readiness at kindergarten, children who had attended a full-day program at kindergarten showed poorer mathematics performance in fifth grade than did children who had attended a part-day kindergarten program. This finding raises the possibility that earlier studies may have failed to find relationships between full-day kindergarten and outcomes because they omitted important information relating to nonacademic dimensions of readiness. Future studies should explore whether the inclusion of such variables changes interpretations about the effectiveness of full-day programs. Le, et al – School Readiness, Full-Day Kindergarten, and Student Achievement: An Empirical Investigation – Rand Corporation, http://www.aecf.org/upload/publicationfiles/ec3624j67.pdf, 2006
“In terms of Kindergarten program type, there is little meaningful difference in the level of children’s end-of-year reading and mathematics knowledge.” (Amy Rathburn, Jerry West, and Elvira Germino-Hausken, “From Kindergarten Through Third Grade: Children’s Beginning School Experiences,” U.S Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, NCES 2004-007, August 2004, 33, available at nces.ed.gov/pubs2004/2004007.pdf)
“This report did not detect any substantive differences in children’s third-grade achievement relative to the type of kindergarten program (full-day vs. half-day) they attended.” (Rathburn, et.al)
“Third-grade reading, mathematics, and science achievement did not differ substantively by children’s sex or kindergarten program type.” (Rathburn, et. al.)
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