Browsing articles in "Testimony/Presentations"
Dec 24, 2012

Oral Testimony on the Social Studies Standards – Prepared Remarks of Education Liberty Watch

Education Liberty Watch Oral Testimony Regarding the 2011 Social Studies Academic Standards
Judge Barbara Nielson
Administrative Hearing – December 20, 2012
OAH 11-1300-30011

Good morning Your Honor.  My name is Marjorie Holsten and I am here on behalf of Education Liberty Watch as an attorney, mother, and homeschool teacher of the Constitution to present our concerns about the new social studies standards.  My remarks today will be in summary form and then we will submit detailed written testimony with quotes and references before the hearing record closes.

We have one request from today’s hearing:
We oppose the rule in its entirety and would therefore ask that either the 2004 standards would remain in effect at least until proper revisions are made, or permanently

Our concerns are fall into several categories.

1.    Minnesota statute, 120B.02, subd, (b)(1) states that, “the rule is intended to raise academic expectations for students, teachers, and schools.”  We would argue and our documentation will show that the academic rigor of these standards has decreased instead of increased compared to 2004 and to other sets of exemplary state standards that the committee chose to review.  Therefore, the 2011 standards are in violation of legislative intent.

2.    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.”  This new version of the standards, because of its omissions and changes in emphasis will not accomplish that goal.

3.    The SONAR fails 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).   The focus on globalization and reliance of the 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.

4.   There is an overly expansive interpretation of and reliance on No Child Left Behind and the possibility of losing federal funding for not having social studies standards in the SONAR:

a.    The SONAR states, “The No Child Left Behind Act requires states to have academic standards in subjects determined by the state. Minnesota statutes section 120B.021, subd. 1, requires academic standards in social studies, thus federal funding is at risk if the state does not enact revised academic social studies standards.”
b.    However, the SONAR fails to mention that a mere paragraph later in MN Statute 120B.021, subd. 1 states, “For purposes of applicable federal law, the academic standards for language arts, mathematics, and science apply to all public school students…”  Social studies is not mentioned.
c.    The SONAR quotes Section 1111(g)(1) of NCLB to back up its claim which says:

If a State fails to meet the deadlines established by the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994 (or under any waiver granted by the Secretary or under any compliance agreement with the Secretary) for demonstrating that the State has in place challenging academic content standards and student achievement standards, and a system for measuring and monitoring adequate yearly progress, the Secretary shall withhold 25 percent of the funds that would otherwise be available to the State for State administration and activities under this part in each year until the Secretary determines that the State meets those requirements. (Emphasis added)

There is no system for measuring adequate yearly progress in social studies in Minnesota via assessment and in fact, MN statute 120B.130, subd 1a forbids it:

“The commissioner must not develop statewide assessments for academic standards in social studies, health and physical education, and the arts.”

None of Section 1111 of NCLB mentions social studies at all, therefore it is highly unlikely that the accountability penalty would apply if states do not have social studies standards.  The U.S. Department of Education has never penalized a state for not having social studies standards and given the presence of the conditional waivers granted under the Obama administration is highly unlikely to deal with social studies at all.

d.    The SONAR also claims on page 20 that the component subjects of social studies are listed as “core academic subjects “in Sec. 9101 of NCLB and are therefore required in sec. 1111, but we believe that the term “core academic subjects” is not found at all in sec. 1111 and is discussed much later in the bill in sections having to do with teacher training and evaluations, etc.

5.    Linking the social studies standards to the Common Core Standards, as explained on page 28 of the SONAR is problematic because in the opinion of eminent attorneys and former federal education officials, the standards are believed to be in violation of at least three federal statutes that prohibit interference by the federal government in academic curriculum or content :
a.    The General Education Provisions Act
b.    .The Department of Education Organization Act and
c.    The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965

Therefore, because the illegal, unconstitutional and federally promoted Common Core ELA standards are now affecting social studies and will eventually affect other subjects, our state is losing its autonomy to determine and control its own standards in multiple subjects when the Department and other proponents assured the public and policy makers that the state was accepting only the English standards.

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Mar 14, 2012

Early Childhood Scholarship Testimony

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.

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.


Mar 26, 2011

Testimony on the MN House Education Spending Bill

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 »