Since our last childcare union update, much has happened in the battle to preserve the rights of parents and independent private and religious childcare providers. First, Ramsey County District Judge Dale Lindman turned his temporary injunction against Governor Mark Dayton’s executive order for a childcare union election from November of 2011 into a permanent one.
In a beautifully written April 6th order that restores some hope that constitutions still matter, Judge Lindman wrote:
Executive Order 11-31 is null and void because it is an unconstitutional usurpation of the Legislature’s constitutional right to make and or amend laws and as such is a violation of the Separation of Powers doctrine
The brave group of group of childcare providers; the dedicated attorneys – Thomas Revnew and Douglas Seaton; the Childcare Freedom Coalition led by the excellent work of Dan McGrath of Minnesota Majority; the amicus brief by the Minnesota Senate; and the support of the Minnesota House all deserve great credit and deep gratitude. Education Liberty Watch was honored to be a part of this strong team and heartily thanks you, our supporters, for your help and encouragement on this important issue of business, fiscal and parental freedom.
The other major development is that the Minnesota Senate passed HF 1766 on April 16th, authored by Senator Ted Lillie (R-Lake Elmo), which is identical to the bill authored by Rep. Kathy Lohmer (R-Woodbury) in the House. This bill adds one simple sentence to statute forbidding union dues or fair share fees from being taken out of childcare subsidies. While the House bill passed on February 9th with bipartisan support (p. 5493), the Senate vote(p.5858) was completely party line. [Democrat Representatives John Benson, Patti Fritz, Mindy Greiling, Kory Kath, Kim Norton, Gene Pelowski joined all of the Republicans except for Rep. Steve Smith, who voted “nay,” in supporting the bill.]
The bill is now being sent to Governor Dayton who, given his strong alliances with unions and the amount of union contributions he has received, would probably veto it on his own. However, he may consider signing it as part of other end of session negotiations.
Karen R. Effrem, MD – President
In answer to our March 9th query,” How Will Legislature Deal with Dayton DOE Lawlessness on QRS??,” both the House and Senate education committees have responded forcefully and well. On March 27th, the House Education Finance Committee passed their omnibus education bill, HF 2949, containing language that deals specifically with the issue of the Department of Education’s efforts to implement the early childhood scholarships by requiring that recipients attend a program that has been rated by the quality rating system (QRS). (Audio is available here).
The provision contains language from two different bills. One, HF 1828, by Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck) requires the scholarship funds to be evenly divided between metro and rural recipients. The other, HF 2729, by Rep. Jennifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie) after an excellent amendment by Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton), makes sure that parents can use the scholarship to attend the program of their choice and takes $250,000 of the scholarship funds for a voluntary, parent-involved, home-based literacy-only program that does not use or require the use of a QRS. Education Liberty Watch was willing to suspend its usual skepticism of home visiting programs for this one based on the facts that it was not a typical home visiting program and that it was accomplishing other important purposes.
The Senate bill, SF 2107, is authored by Senator Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) and contains only the funding for the home based program without any other changes. The bill passed unanimously out of committee after some minor amendments and awaits action on the Senate floor.
During the committee process, both the House and Senate firmly instructed the Department of Education on the separation of powers when they objected to the funding and other changes in the scholarship program. House Education Finance Committee Chairman Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) said during the initial March 14th hearing on the Loon bill:
“I stand up for the legislative branch as a coequal partner in government. If the department is of the opinion that they can get out the truck and drive over us on this issue, they are sadly mistaken and in a bad place to be” Continue reading »
Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the committee – My name is Karen Effrem, and I am here on behalf of Education Liberty Watch.
Despite our usual concerns about the data collection and parental autonomy in home visiting programs, we want to thank Rep. Loon for bringing forth this bill. We enthusiastically support a program that is voluntary, private, free-market, faith and home based, literacy focused, and does not require the top-down, one size fits all, government mandated program or curriculum standards without statutory authority.
This program is in stark contrast to the Department’s implementation plan for the early childhood scholarships that were funded to the tune of $4 million very precious taxpayer dollars last session. Education Liberty wishes to thank chairman Garofalo and this committee for exercising their proper oversight authority via the hearing held here on January 26th. We join you in the deep concern that the Department is unilaterally changing the implementation of those scholarships as passed by the legislature from making it a first come, first served to requiring scholarship recipients to attend a three or four star rated program under the Parent Aware quality rating system with all of its problems that this legislature explicitly refused last year.
A strong related concern for us is that according to Department documents such as the Race to the Top application,” to reach 3 or 4 stars requires both familiarity with the ECIPs and also alignment of curriculum and assessment with them.” Even if these standards were perfectly academic and non-controversial, which they are not, as our handouts show, the imposition of one top-down, government mandated set of standards on all programs – public, private or religious who “volunteer” for this rating system cannot be allowed to stand.
Again, we thank Rep. Loon for authoring this bill and look forward to this committee asserting its proper authority under separation of powers doctrine, as well as protecting parental and provider authority and autonomy.
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 Continue reading »
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