Browsing articles in "Federal Education"
Feb 24, 2012

Government Preschool Tyranny – “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet!”

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. Continue reading »

Feb 17, 2012

Oppose NCLB Waivers and Support Federal DOE Elimination

The following testimony was submitted to a joint hearing of the Minnesota House Education Reform and Finance Committees regarding No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers held today.  Although this testimony pertains to Minnesota, the concepts described apply to all states that have received or are applying for these waivers.

Despite the great desire for funds and the desire for even the illusion of flexibility, state legislatures must stand up for state sovereignty, separation of powers, local control and parental rights or the federal takeover of education will be complete.

On the federal level, Minnesota’s own Rep. John Kline (R-MN 6), chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee has authored two bills – The Student Success Act (HR 33989) and The Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act (HR 3990).  While these bills do many good and important things, like properly codifying flexibility at the legislative level and prohibiting the executive branch from setting standards and demanding other requirements and we support them, we are even more enamored by Senator Rand Paul’s bill that cuts $5 trillion of federal spending over five years and completely eliminates the US Department of Education.  Given the horrific extent of federal spending, debt, and government overreach into every aspect of children’s and their families’ lives, we see this as a more direct approach.

Please urge your state legislators to resist the waivers and their implementation in your states as well as to urge your members of Congress to support the Kline bills as the interim step on the way to the ultimate goal of the Paul legislation.

February 16, 2012

Dear Chairwoman Erickson, Chairman Garofalo and Members of the House Education Committees,

Thank you for your willingness to consider these written comments on the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers. Education Liberty Watch has several concerns:

1)      The waiver program as implemented by the US Dept. of Education is unconstitutional as the executive branch  is usurping legislative authority and implementing reforms not in law.

Former federal judge and law professor Michael  McConnell said, “ [T]he Obama administration has admitted to a strategy of governing by executive order when it cannot prevail through proper legislative channels. Rather than work with Congress to get reasonable changes to President Bush’s No Child Left Behind education law, it has used an aggressive interpretation of its waiver authority to substitute the president’s favored policies for the law passed by Congress. Continue reading »

Feb 8, 2012

Education Liberty Watch Testimony on SF 1656 – Legislative Approval of Standards

Karen R. Effrem, MD

President – Education Liberty Watch

February 8, 2012

Dear Chairwoman Olson and Members of the Senate Education Committee,

Thank you for your willingness to consider these written comments on SF 1656.  Education Liberty Watch enthusiastically supports SF 1656.  We are grateful to Senator Nelson for sponsoring it and to Senators Michel, Harrington, and Madame Chairwoman as well for their willingness to co-author it.  The list of sponsors speaks to the Minnesota legislature’s long and proud heritage of bipartisan and ideologically diverse opposition to both federal and executive branch interference in education matters.  This fidelity to separation of powers doctrine, state sovereignty, local control, and parental rights is admirable.

As to the merits of the legislation, it has many.

1)      Legally and constitutionally, it is important after the Profile of Learning debacle from 1998-2003, the bureaucracy and unfunded mandates of No Child Left Behind, the unconstitutional and illegal efforts of the Obama administration to go around Congress, the unilateral actions of state departments of education to commit to the federal department of education’s requirements for waivers that include imposition of national standards, and the Race to the Top Process which also required this imposition of a federal curriculum, it is very important for the people’s representatives in the legislature to have a say about these standards and their implementation.

2)      From a fiscal and fiduciary standpoint, the legislature must also weigh in.  Changing standards and the associated assessments is an enormously expensive undertaking.  California has estimated that it will cost $3 billion dollars to develop new assessments that comply with the Common Core National Standards.  While certainly not likely to be that high in Minnesota, there is already much concern about the number, cost and rigor of the myriad of assessments that Minnesota already gives to comply with federal mandates without developing a whole new set for these less than ideal standards.  Given the precarious financial situations of both the Minnesota and federal governments, it is wise to proceed carefully in changing its standards.

3)      And most importantly from the quality perspective, these national standards should not be implemented without much greater scrutiny.  Before the Pawlenty administration imposed the English Common Core Standards without legislative input, they were quite universally panned by experts across the country.  Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who had reviewed Minnesota’s English standards coming off the Profile refused to validate the Common Core standards when they were developed.  The math standards are even worse as witnessed by the opposition to them by Minnesota’s own experts such as Dr. Larry Gray.

Finally, although this legislation deals with K-12 standards, the very same situation is playing out in the pre-K realm with the state department of education attempting to impose statewide preschool standards that have never been reviewed by the legislature to force compliance with the Parent Aware Quality Rating system by bribing or blackmailing poor parents and private childcare programs and preschools with scholarships and Race to the Top grants.  Even if these standards were perfectly academic and non-controversial, which they are not, 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.

Thank you again for this opportunity to testify.


Feb 7, 2012

Suggested Caucus Resolutions

The “Whereas” language is for information purposes in order to guide discussion. The proposed language is in bold font.

1)      Oppose imposition of mandatory state preschool standards on private preschool programs via state and federal funds

Whereas parents, not government, are responsible for raising and educating their preschool children, neither the state nor federal governments have authority to set preschool curriculum standards especially via the executive branch and especially for private and religious institutions;

Whereas the Dayton administration is using state and federal grant programs to impose a single set of preschool curriculum standards on those institutions regardless of parental choice and without legislative review;

Therefore be it resolved that:

We are firmly against the establishment of universal pre-school programs in Minnesota, including the imposition of statewide early childhood standards and curricula via state and federal funding.

2)      Oppose the imposition of national (Common Core) K-12 standards

Whereas, according to the 10th amendment to the US Constitution, education, since not listed as a power of the federal government, is reserved to states and the people;

Whereas the Common Core National standards are being funded and promoted by federal education programs like Race to the Top and creating a national curriculum that is unconstitutional, violates federal law, is unnecessary and unhelpful for improving national  academic performance, and in many cases are of lower quality than current state standards;

Therefore be it resolved that:

We oppose the adoption of the Common Core national standards and the national tests that accompany them.

3)      Oppose federal and executive branch control of education

Whereas, both the Obama and Dayton administrations are ignoring separation of powers doctrine and implementing various aspects of federal and state education programs, most of which are unconstitutional,  such as No Child Left Behind waivers, Race to the Top, and early childhood scholarships without statutory authority or legislative input;

Therefore be it resolved that:

We oppose reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act and until then, Minnesota should opt out.  This also applies to No Child Left Behind waivers, Race to the Top, Head Start, and early childhood scholarships.

4)      Oppose unionization of private businesses and independent contractors

Whereas several states have or attempted to designate individuals like personal care attendants or small independent childcare businesses that care for clients that receive government subsidies for the purposes of unionization and automatically deducting union dues from those subsidies resulting in decreased funds for poor, sick and disabled children and adults;

Therefore, be it resolved that:

We oppose the forced unionization of individuals or businesses whose clients receive government subsidies and the deduction of union dues or fair share fees from those subsidies.

5)      Oppose federal education data tracking from birth.

Whereas, the federal K-12 and early childhood versions of Race to the Top as well as the Stimulus bill all require the states to set up or expand a comprehensive data tracking system of all children from birth on that includes much sensitive family data;

Whereas, the Obama administration has by rule effectively gutted student consent and privacy protection under the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment;

Therefore, be it resolved that:

We oppose the use of state or federal funds to implement this longitudinal education data system and that our state should opt out.