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.
This is the written testimony prepared for the MN House Education Finance Committee’s consideration of the omnibus education finance bill (HF 934 – Audio of what was actually presented is available here by following the link for the March 21st hearing beginning at 6:37:35).
Good evening Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. My name is Karen Effrem, and I am here on behalf of Education Liberty Watch.
We want to thank and commend you for your efforts to do a very difficult job given the fiscal crisis this state and our nation are facing. There are some good reforms in here. Those include Rep. Bills’ early graduation scholarship bill and Rep. Erickson’s mandate relief bill, particularly the mandate on school psychologists and social workers as well as the requirement for legislative approval of the new standards. Given what came out with the draft social studies standards, that is very important. We also appreciate the language to remove the negotiation deadline, and the teacher evaluation, and given that salaries and benefits are the biggest cost drivers of public education, we also appreciate the other reforms that you are considering in that direction. We also appreciate the intent of Rep. Woodard’s bill to help children trapped in under performing schools. Finally, we appreciate that there is no new funding for all-day kindergarten when the research that I have seen shows no improvement in the achievement gap and longer term problems with math and behavioral issues in the fifth grade in students that had all day kindergarten versus those that had the traditional half-day program.
Unfortunately, we need to mention several areas of grave concern:
1. The overall levels of spending in this bill are way too high. According to data presented at a congressional hearing, the federal taxpayers have spent 2 trillion dollars over the last 30 years with a huge increase in spending over the last 10 or so that has yielded flat or declining achievement scores and no real change in the achievement gap. State spending has skyrocketed as well. The private economy has taken huge losses in salaries and benefits as well as home and portfolio values. Individuals and businesses have had to make very significant cuts in their own budgets. There is no reason that government, including K-12 education that encompasses 40% of the budget, should not have to do the same, especially given that achievement results are so stagnant to poor. There was a Gallup poll just released today showing that spending and the economy is the number one issue in the minds of voters. Continue reading »
3/14/11 – Dr Effrem testified before the MN House Education Finance Committee in support of the idea of school choice for K-12, but against the mandates placed on the private school in the MN House Education Finance Committee (HF 273 – Woodard) (Audio is available here by following the link for the March 14th hearing starting at 2:02:23)
3/17/11 – Dr. Effrem testified in favor of SF 388 (Nienow), because, because unlike its House counterpart (HF 273 above) it offers school choice without imposing the public school tests and standards and other mandates on the private schools. (Audio is available here by following the link for the March 17th Education Committee hearing starting at 50:48)
- 3/16/11 – Dr. Effrem testified before the Senate Education Committee in strong support of SF 622 to prohibit adoption of the common core national standards without legislative approval. Audio is available here by following the link for the March 16th education hearing here starting at 39:50..
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