Browsing articles in "Federal Education"
Feb 6, 2012
ELW

Dayton DOE Admits Plan to Control Preschool Curriculum via State & Federal Funds

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President

In three different and very significant ways, the Dayton administration has admitted that their ultimate aim is to have the state control the curriculum standards first for those governing all preschool and childcare programs in the state that “volunteer” to become involved in the Parent Aware Quality Rating System (the QRS), the Race to the Top preschool grant program, or the early childhood scholarship program regardless of whether these programs are public, private or religious. This seems to be the foundation for then controlling ALL preschool curriculum. (More on that in future alerts).

Minnesota’s Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant application neatly ties all three situations together. The document unabashedly states (p. 87):

“Minnesota’s Early Learning and Development Standards (called the Early Childhood Indicators of Progress, or ECIPs-see C1) for children birth to five are at the foundation of [Parent] Aware. Parent Aware Program Standards require that instruction and assessment be aligned with the ECIPs and the ratings are built on the ECIPs, which function like a scaffold. For example, ELD Programs must ensure that their staff members are familiar with the ECIPs before earning 1 star, and to reach 3 or 4 stars requires both familiarity with the ECIPs and also alignment of curriculum and assessment with them.” (Emphasis added)

In other words, the Parent Aware QRS, even though “voluntary,” mandates a top-down government run curriculum in order for programs to receive the highest ratings, and therefore all of the financial and policy goodies that accompany those top ratings. Adherence to program standards of the QRS that include curriculum alignment to these standards is then the cornerstone of both the Race to the Top Application and the early childhood scholarships. The quality rating system was the top point garnering criterion on the $500 million Race to the Top application which also requires statewide preschool standards and wide participation by preschool programs, including private and religious ones, which comprise more than 80% of the childcare market in Minnesota. The scholarships were a high priority of some of the lead House education negotiators during the final closed negotiations of the shutdown at the end of the 2011 session. The Dayton Education Department recently and arrogantly reported (January 26th) to the House Education Finance Committee that, despite the lack of statutory authority to use the QRS in distribution of those scholarships, they are going to allow use of scholarship funds only at programs that earn 3 or 4 stars, i.e. that require these standards, and parents may not conscientiously object to these standards if they want a scholarship. Are we seeing a pattern here?

Here is a summary of the problems with this approach:

Continue reading »

Oct 20, 2011
ELW

Early Learning Race to the Top Nationalizes Preschool

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President

October 19th was the day that states applying for the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant must have turned in their applications.  After banking, health care, the auto industry, K-12 education, and so many other areas of life, the new early childhood Race to the Top initiative is now doing to preschool what has been done in all these other sectors.  The Obama administration is bribing desperately cash starved states with one time federal dollars that have been coerced from those same states  in order to impose the latest version of control from Washington DC.

As did the K-12 version, which we described as Federal Control of Education on Steroids, the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge continues where the 2007 reauthorization of Head Start (See A Federal Curriculum for Preschoolers) left off.  The RTTT-ELC:  1) Puts Uncle Sam in charge of preschool standards, assessments, and data collection from birth onward; 2) Expands invasive and ineffective home visiting programs; and 3) In addition to the federal takeover of state early childhood programs accomplished in 2007 with the Head Start reauthorization, becomes a de facto government takeover of private childcare via the so-called quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS).  In reverse order here is a brief description of the issues: Continue reading »

Aug 11, 2011
ELW

Education Liberty Watch Statement on Questionable Decision to Take QRS Statewide

“We are deeply disappointed that Governor Dayton has joined with liberal allies unwilling to accept legislative defeat.  It is deeply disturbing that after a stinging legislative rebuke, this administration would resort to this sort of unjustified expenditure of public funds to qualify for one-time federal money from a basically bankrupt federal government that has had its credit rating downgraded for the first time in nearly 100 years.  Given the federal government’s precarious fiscal situation, the availability of these funds is extremely doubtful.

We also find it sadly  ironic that proponents of this bad idea have decried the use of one-time education shift and tobacco bonds to balance the state budget, but are perfectly happy to try to sidestep the legislature in order to gain the one time federal Race to the Top funds and impose their big-government schemes on the private childcare businesses and young children.  This program will subject Minnesota to increased federal control and more unfunded mandates that have engendered much bipartisan opposition with other federal programs like No Child Left Behind.  It is also ironic that legislators that opposed Race tot he Top for K-12 are now fine with federal government control of preschool.

We strongly question this idea of established statutory authority to make this move.  If there was proper authority to do this, then why did nanny state proponents spend an entire session trying to implement this flawed, expensive and bureaucratic system?

The public and policy makers must be aware of the following disturbing facts regarding quality rating systems and preschool in general:

  • Only 14% of eligible providers in the pilot areas volunteered to be rated with home providers being extremely wary of the many bureaucratic hurdles imposed on them by this system
  • Only 25% of parents with children in rated programs even knew about Parent Aware, meaning that at least 75% of parents in the program are not using the system to make their childcare decisions
  • Two thirds of the programs received an automatic free pass of a four star rating just because they are large centers or public programs, like Head Start, while small private programs are subjected to the full rating process, described as arbitrary by some providers.
  • The evaluators of Parent Aware said, “The design does not permit us to determine if Parent Aware causes outcomes for programs, parents, or children. “
  • It has taken $20 million of private funds and five years to get these poor results in four pilot areas, so it would likely cost many times more than that in public dollars and certainly much more than the projected $2 million of public funds to take Parent Aware statewide.  This does not even include the cost to maintain this government heavy system.
  • Poor children that participate in early childhood programs often either retain no academic benefit or a decline in test scores, as well as emotional and behavioral problems, in the elementary school years.

Education Liberty Watch will continue to work with the citizens of Minnesota and their elected representatives against this expansion of government control and regulation of private childcare and preschool programs, imposition of a government preschool curriculum on our state’s youngest children, and out of control state and federal spending. ”

Contact:

Karen R. Effrem, MD

952-361-4931

Aug 9, 2011
ELW

Hawkins & MinnPost Join MELF’s Disdain for Constitution

As we have previously reported, the mainstream media and left-leaning websites (pardon the redundancy) have reported (Jeremy Olson) or even cheered (Gail Rosenblum and MPR) the efforts of the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation (MELF) to stomp on the Minnesota Constitution and do an end run around the legislature by unilaterally implementing the Parent Aware quality rating system (QRS) that was clearly and formally rejected by 92-100% of the Republican majorities in both the House and Senate.

However, besides MELF itself, nowhere have we witnessed more sneering disdain for the decision of the people’s elected representatives and the rule of law than by Beth Hawkins of MinnPost in her August 2nd column.  She is almost swooning with admiration for MELF executive director Duane Benson’s recommendation for Governor Dayton to ignore the legislature and implement Parent Aware statewide via administrative dictate:

In the wee hours of the morning after the special session, Duane Benson, the velvet-gloved force who directs MELF, hatched a modest proposal for seeing that a quality-ratings system does get implemented this year before the business-led nonprofit quietly closes its doors. Trust a onetime GOP Senate minority leader to figure out how to end-run the Legislature.

Hawkins is delivering this gushing praise of this Arne Carlson style “Republican” that compromised, collaborated, and caved with one of the Senate’s chief leftists, the now thankfully retiring Linda Berglin, to impose the infamous 2% sick tax on all health care visits in the state.  In addition, even though MELF was given authority and money back in 2005 to make recommendations on statewide childcare policy, they refused the money so that they would not have to comply with the state’s open meeting laws and involve the public and policymakers in the deliberation of their schemes. Continue reading »