Browsing articles in "Federal Education"
Feb 3, 2013

Education Commissioner About to be Confirmed w/o Notice & Despite Multiple Issues

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.

State Statutes Violated
Standards Process (See our testimony and our response for more information)
  1. 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.”
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).

Continue reading »

Jan 21, 2013

Important Minnesota, Indiana, and Idaho Standards News

Today is the day we celebrate the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, no longer mentioned by the Minnesota social studies standards, and which were given an F grade by the Southern Poverty Law Center for their poor teaching of the civil rights movement.  As we remember this important day in American history, Education Liberty Watch wishes to express its profound gratitude to the hundreds of parents, grandparents, and concerned citizens, as well as the experts, legislators, attorneys, and groups that participated in the public hearing and comment process for the Minnesota social studies standards.  364 of you signed our petition in five days.  Eleven legislators, listed and some quoted below, including Senate Minority Leader David Hann, made formal comments opposing the standards, while none commented in support of them.  Four current or past college professors submitted formal comments against these standards and another wrote in the Star Tribune on Jan. 18th even after the formal comment period had closed.  The Department of Education responded to the comments received by January 9th.  Education Liberty Watch provided a rebuttal to their response as did Representatives Sondra Erickson and Kelby Woodard, Dr. John Fonte, and American Principles in Action, all showing how the Department failed to adequately respond to the myriad concerns raised.  It is now up to the judge who must decide by about February 15th whether the rule containing the standards is acceptable. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile as Minnesota fights against the revisionist history and further implementation of the Common Core standards via the link to the English standards, citizens are taking up the battle against big government education in Indiana.  More than 500 people came during work and school to a rally opposing that state’s Common Core standards in English and math.  Senator Scott Schneider has introduced a bill (SB 193) to withdraw Indiana from the Common Core standards.  After the rally there was a four and a half hour hearing. The vote that was expected in the Senate Education Committee on January 23rd has been moved. We will alert you when we know. (Local media coverage is available here).    Please see below for details on contacting the Indiana Senate Education Committee.

In addition, the Idaho House Education Committee  heard more testimony against the Common Core and teachers are speaking out about the destruction of math and English teaching, their professionalism, autonomy, and creativity. As with Obamacare, the Common Core will have to be resisted on the state level.  Please continue to join us in this fight!

Continue reading »

Nov 6, 2012

Presidential Candidates on Education: Families or Government in Charge?

The following statement has been attributed to Abraham Lincoln:

The philosophy of education in one generation becomes the philosophy of of government in the next.

Although education continues to be overshadowed by the economy and lately by foreign affairs such as the Benghazi debacle, it has still been discussed in the presidential campaign. The candidates discussed the federal role in education including the Common Core Standards and financing in the first debate, which I outlined in our last alert. And never has there been a more distinct contrast between the philosophies of education between the two presidential candidates.

President Obama’s approach has been unwaveringly towards big government solutions. He has consistently been in favor of more federal control and spending from cradle to college, as well as hiring more teachers and expanding federal data gathering. His administration has relentlessly pursued national standards in both preschool and K-12 via the Race to the Top grant programs as well as the No Child Left Behind waivers.  As a result he is very close to achieving federalization of curriculum, because 46-1/2 states and the District of Columbia have adopted these standards.  Nine states have federalized their preschool standards and put in place early childhood quality rating systems that will control private and religious programs as well. The administration has also increased Head Start spending despite numerous studies, including one in 2010, showing it to be a failure and GAO evidence of fraud in the program’s administration.

Governor Romney, on the other hand, except for being less forthright than he needs to be about the absolute necessity of cutting federal education spending has spoken consistently about decreasing the federal role in education. He has specifically stated that it is not the role of the federal government to promote national standards.

Most importantly, Mitt Romney has spoken of the critical importance of families and parents in the education of children, especially young children. These statements are like water in the desert for families and groups that want to see power and freedom returned to families and locally elected school boards to make education decisions.

Continue reading »

Oct 6, 2012

1st Presidential Debate Discussed Federal Role in Education

The first presidential debate, a decisive and widely declared victory for Mitt Romney, contained a number of illuminating moments on education.  While President Obama continued to openly display his authoritarian philosophy, Governor Romney showed the conflict in his camp and perhaps within himself personally between a strong limited government view and continued ineffective federal education spending.   Both candidates spoke about the role of government in general and in education in particular.

There was absolutely nothing new in discussions about the role of government from President Obama.  He continued his very statist approach saying:

But I also believe that government has the capacity, the federal government has the capacity to help open up opportunity and create ladders of opportunity and to create frameworks where the American people can succeed…

All those things are designed to make sure that the American people, their genius, their grit, their determination, is — is channeled and — and they have an opportunity to succeed. And everybody’s getting a fair shot. And everybody’s getting a fair share — everybody’s doing a fair share, and everybody’s playing by the same rules. (emphasis added)

Continue reading »