Nov 17, 2011
ELW

Union + QRS = Increased Costs, Bureaucracy + Decreased Freedom, Choice

Sadly, by setting a vote on childcare unionization by executive order on November 15th, Governor Mark Dayton has again involved himself in another unconstitutional/illegal effort to pay off political cronies, expand government, usurp parental authority, and harm small business.

The governor ordered the Bureau of Mediation Services to do a mail-in ballot, but only of childcare providers that serve children who receive government subsidies for their care. This means that the approximately 4,000 provider minority that already has a stake in government subsidies and programs and is more likely to support unionization, will then be able to make this momentous decision to form a statewide childcare union for the entire group of 11,000 childcare providers in the whole state of Minnesota.

The executive order states that no one will have to join a union or pay dues if the vote is in favor of unionization. What is not stated is that the decisions made by the group that does involve itself in negotiating with the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services will affect ALL childcare providers in the state. In addition, there has been no concrete delineation by union proponents about fair share dues that could well be charged to those who do not join or that dues may well be extracted directly from the government subsidy payments before going to the already underpaid childcare providers. No union proponents have been able to refute the obvious – that because of these kinds of issues, costs will increase and access to affordable childcare will decrease.

Popular opinion is certainly against this move by the governor. In a November 7th Survey USA political poll commissioned by KSTP, one of the questions was, “Should daycare workers in the state of Minnesota form labor unions and be considered public employees?” The response was overwhelmingly against this idea. Overall there was 68% opposed and 19% in favor with 13% not sure. Even in the liberal and Democratic demographics the opposition was 52% and 60% respectively with support being only in the teens.

All of this is quite analogous and directly related to the governor’s rogue decision to unilaterally expand the quality rating system (QRS) using federal money, despite near unanimous votes by the legislative majorities against doing so during the 2011 regular and special sessions. As Education Liberty Watch warned during the session and stated in our  analysis of Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, which seeks to greatly expand the QRS system in Minnesota and across the nation, when childcare providers need to be rated in order to receive scholarships and other government subsidies, these workers will be considered public employees and as in other states, subject to unionization. These QRSs are not the touted “Consumer Reports” style information sources for parents about childcare, but rather a tangled, bureaucratic, and expensive government takeover of private childcare that in the prescient words of a former Democrat Assistant Attorney General back in 1994 will more than likely “restrict entry, limit competition, reduce access, limit parental choice, and increase cost.” 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 »

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