Apr 11, 2011
ELW

Some Good News in HHS Bills

Although Education Liberty Watch primarily deals with the effects of education programs and spending and their effects on academic excellence, parents’ rights and the propagation of the American heritage of freedom, we also monitor a number of issues in the health and human services realm that affect parents’ rights and family autonomy to have parents raise, educate and care for their children without government interference.  Both the Minnesota House and Senate finished their massive health and human services policy and spending bills in recent days.  Although spending remains a major problem in both the House and Senate bills and the House bill being significantly more bureaucratic than the Senate bill, there is still some very good news that should be trumpeted and for which the Republicans should be thanked.  Contact information for the House is available here and the Senate information is available here.

1)      Health Care Freedom of Choice Act Now in Both House and Senate Bills – This provision that asserts Minnesota’s state sovereignty to not force its citizens to buy health insurance as mandated by the federal government in the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obama Care) is now in both omnibus bills. This is great news for freedom and for families struggling in this economy to not have to buy government mandated health insurance whose premiums will rise and coverage will shrink.  The legislation was introduced by Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud) and Senator David Hann (R-Eden Prairie). The provision was in the Senate bill. The amendment to add it into the House bill was offered by Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe) on the House floor.  The vote was along party lines.  The authors and all of the legislative Republicans should be thanked.

2)      Protections Regarding State Collection, Storage, and Unconsented Research on Baby DNA in Senate Bill – Thanks to the excellent work of Senator David Hann, Twila Brase and Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, and many concerned parents and citizens, protections from government acquisition, storage and use for research without consent are now in the Senate bill.  Our genetic code contained in DNA is what identifies us as individuals and is the most intimate information we have.  The last entity that should have possession and control of that information is government.

3)      Parent Aware Quality Rating System for Child Care Now GONE from Both HHS Bills – The bureaucratic, ineffective, big government quality rating system about which we have warned you extensively was in the House bill in a watered down form at the behest of Democrat early childhood proponent Rep. Nora Slawik.  House HHS Finance Chairman Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) removed the provision before the House bill went to the floor.  Senate Chairman David Hann never had the provision in the Senate version at all.  Both chairmen should be thanked.

Continue reading »

Apr 5, 2011
ELW

Rebuttal Regarding Parent Aware

It seems that the liberal/progressive proponents of expansion of the state early childhood bureaucracy and government control of the  education of our children from the womb are upset with the House’s wise vote last week to get rid of the Parent Aware quality rating system and the Senate’s equally wise vote to keep it out of each chamber’s education spending bill.  Instead of engaging in a healthy debate about the merits or lack thereof of this important public policy issue, both writers refused to say anything about the very substantive reasons that both the Minnesota Family Council and Education Liberty Watch opposed that very questionable piece of legislation.  Here is Education Liberty Watch’s response, since attempts to post comments on the website are currently blocked:

Mr. Smith,

With all due respect right back at you, perhaps both you and Ms. Hawkins could do a little more reasonable investigative reporting of the reasons for the opposition of both Education Liberty Watch and the Minnesota Family Council to the idea of creating a new statewide bureaucracy that puts all sorts of unnecessary mandates on private child care businesses and preschools that “volunteer” to take the Parent Aware scholarship money before resorting to ad hominem attacks about uninformed religious and social conservatism.

Just to make your job a little easier, here is a summary (Extensive quotes and references are available in the early childhood section of our website.):

1) Both MELF’s own and national evaluators admit that there is no way to know if quality rating systems improve child outcomes or program quality.  (See Evidence on Effectiveness of Quality Rating Systems)

2) MELF’s evaluation shows that only 14% of eligible providers in the pilot areas enrolled in Parent Aware.

3) Again from MELF, only 25% of parents with children in Parent Aware Programs had even heard of Parent Aware, up from a whopping 20% the year before.  It is not exactly wildly popular, and parents even in the program are not using it to make informed childcare decisions. (See Evidence on Effectiveness of Quality Rating Systems)

4)Two thirds of the programs in the pilot project received a free pass of an automatic four star rating, including a number of Head Start programs.  Head Start in national studies published in 2010 has been found to have any positive beneficial effects fade by 1st grade, harm the math skills of 3 year olds and had several programs commit fraud regarding income verification. (See Studies on Effectiveness of Early Childhood Programs) Continue reading »

Apr 3, 2011
ELW

Bad Pre-K Policy Gone from House K-12 Bill! Now to Work on Spending!!

Great News on Preschool Policy

HF 934, the omnibus K-12 education finance bill was passed by the House at about 3 AM on Wednesday, March 30th.  Thanks to all of your calls and emails, an excellent amendment by Rep. Mark Buesgens (R-Jordan), support from Rep.  Pat Garofalo (R – Farmington and chairman of the House Education Finance Committee) as well as strong speeches by Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe), Rep.  Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa), and Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria), the very concerning language that would have taken the bureaucratic, freedom robbing, ineffective quality rating system statewide about which we warned you is  GONE!!

The amendment to get rid of the Parent Aware quality rating system was supported by the vast proportion of Republicans and one Democrat who were concerned with the expansion of preschool spending and policy at a time when there is no money and when there is no evidence that either preschool or quality rating systems work and evidence that there is harm.  The vote on the amendment was along party lines with the following exceptions:

VOTING YES66 of the 72 Republicans (see exceptions below) and Representative Kerry Gauthier (D-Duluth).

VOTING NO:  All of the Democrats except  Rep Gauthier and Republican Representatives Representatives Jim Abeler (Anoka),  Sarah Anderson (Plymouth), Connie Doepke (Orono), Jennifer Loon (Eden Prairie), Carol McFarlane (White Bear Lake), Branden Petersen (Andover), and Steve Smith (Mound)

NOT VOTING: Atkins, John Benson, Hausman, Huntley, Laine, and Ward (All D) and Murdock (R).

Education Liberty Watch is extremely appreciative to the House Republicans and Rep. Gauthier that voted yes for this work.  To thank them yourself, especially Representatives  Buesgens,  Garofalo, Gruenhagen, Franson, Drazkowski, and Gauthier you may click here for phone numbers or email addresses.

Spending Still a Very Important Issue – Need to Demand Fiscal Sanity Continue reading »

Mar 28, 2011
ELW

Urgent Update on Minnesota Education Spending Bills

SUMMARY:

Although there are some good reforms in the House education finance bill (HF 934 – see below for details), because of the increased overall education spending, the expansion of early childhood spending and bad policy, and the mandates on the private schools in the school choice bill, Education Liberty Watch opposes HF 934, which will heard on the House floor TOMORROW (3/29/11). It is quite likely to be vetoed anyway and it would be very bad if some of these provisions would become the House position going into further negotiations.  We hope that all of the Republicans will join conservatives, both new and already there, in voting against this bill and instead, produce a bill that cuts real spending and decreases the size and scope of government involvement in education and families as representatives were elected to do.

If you wish to contact your representatives to make your views on this issue known, please call or email as follows:

House Speaker Kurt Zellers –

651-296-5502  rep.kurt.zellers@house.mn

House Majority Leader Matt Dean –

651-296-3018  rep.matt.dean@house.mn

To Contact Your Individual House member by phone or email, click:

http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/members/housemembers.asp

The Senate education bill (SF 1030), although still spending way too much is far preferable from a policy perspective.  We will update you when we have information on when it will reach the Senate floor.

Introduction

The Minnesota House and Senate education committees passed their large education spending bills this last week, also called omnibus bills.  Although there are some good efforts at reform in both bills (see below), each spends too much, both overall, and especially on early childhood. Overall education spending increases by approximately one billion dollars from last biennium, and there are no cuts to anything over current spending in early childhood. This is especially concerning given the fiscal crisis that Minnesota is facing, that education consumes 40% of the Minnesota budget, that many of these programs are ineffective and sometimes harmful,  and that achievement is so stagnant or declining, especially for poor and minority children. This stagnation is despite massive increases in spending over the last 30 years at both the state and federal levels.  Yet, Dr. Karen Effrem was the only one to her knowledge of the dozens of people who testified about these bills that asked for cuts of any kind.

Even worse, the House increases early childhood spending by incentivizing poor families to put their children in preschool instead of educating them at home with early childhood scholarships and takes the ineffective and controversial Parent Aware quality rating system (QRS) statewide.  (Testimonies may be accessed here).

[Written testimony prepared for the MN House Education Finance Committee’s consideration of the omnibus education finance bill is available here (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] Continue reading »

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