Jun 15, 2011

Rebuttal to MinnPost

I submitted a rebuttal to MinnPost after a series of attack pieces on June 7th, 9th, and 10th.  An edited version of the piece was posted today (June 15th). Below is the piece that was submitted with brackets and some comments to show what was removed.  Education Liberty Watch is grateful that they posted what they did.

In response to the June 7th , 9th and 10th articles by Beth Hawkins posted on MinnPost regarding early childhood issues, particularly the quality rating system (QRS),  and Education Liberty Watch’s opposition to them, I am flattered that MinnPost believes that our group had such a big influence on the legislature.  However, it is deeply disturbing that a) she thinks that legislators are not able to think for themselves about the merits or lack thereof of a given proposal in order to represent their constituents and b) that it is somehow sinister for individuals or groups to exercise their constitutional rights to bring information to or make their beliefs known to their elected representatives.

[It is also clearly obvious that MinnPost supports these pre-K initiatives in no uncertain terms.   However, the level of journalistic bias that runs through the writing on this topic and the site’s lack of oversight are absolutely breathtaking. – This was changed to “I find the level of journalistic bias that runs through the writing on this topic and the site’s lack of oversight absolutely breathtaking”] The articles make it seem as though any opposition to these initiatives is anti-child, un-American, and has no intellectual basis whatsoever.  [Rather than engage in a meaningful, substantive, respectful debate on these issues as Michael Caputo and MPR put together, MinnPost has resorted to misstatement, half-truth, and smear to try to make assertions. – This was removed.]

This bias reached its peak in the June 9th reprinting of the complete Duane Benson letter to legislators attempting to rebut our statements. His letter did not contain a single link to any evidence bolstering his point of view, the reporter did not even link our article to which Benson responded, nor was there any links to any of the extensive evidence that Education Liberty Watch has provided to legislators and the public all session.  (See Evidence on Effectiveness of Quality Rating Systems, Myths and Facts About Early Childhood Education & Quality Rating Systems (QRSs), Studies on Effectiveness of Early Childhood Programs, Quotes and References Regarding the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment.  To her credit, she did link one of our articles: Preschool Actually Harms Reading Achievement).

This lack of reporting is also true of my extensive testimony and writing for the legislature and the Congress and international groups regarding home visiting and government mental screening of children, particularly poor and minority children.  Part of that opposition to mental screening was fueled and bolstered by the tragic story of Aliah Gleason, a 13 year old African American girl forcibly institutionalized and drugged with powerful, dangerous antipsychotics at the behest of Texas school and child protection authorities after a school based mental screening as reported in Mother Jones magazine, [hardly a bastion of conservative writing. – Removed]

Continue reading »

May 22, 2011

Final Regular Session Education Update! Big Government Warning!

Thank you for your support as the education bill has moved through the legislative process.  The conference report for the education bill that we discussed in our last alert has passed both the House and Senate without any changes since that update.  Please THANK the legislators that have put this bill together that contains so many great provisions as we have previously discussed and the very important ones that it does not contain, namely the quality rating system and all-day kindergarten.

Unfortunately, due to intense pressures that come from many different directions (See the whining in the Star Tribune due to the efforts of Senator Dave Thompson, Reps. Mark Buesgens and Sondra Erickson and Education Liberty Watch to stand against the QRS for an example of media pressure) at the end of the session, there are disturbing statements coming from reliable legislative sources that indicate that Governor Dayton and education commissioner Brenda Casselius are demanding the early childhood provisions, particularly the quality rating system (QRS) and all-day kindergarten and that the Republicans may agree in order to get the bill signed or in a special session.  One of the justifications for demanding the QRS is that now that there is going to be $700 million more for the Race to the Top program that will now include early childhood programs and will apparently require a quality rating system.

If you wish to make your voice heard on this issue, now would be an important time to do so as there is apparently a rush to try to get this signed before Monday’s end of session (May 23rd) deadline.   After thanking the Republican legislators (contact information below) that have held so strong, encourage them to continue their courageous stand by explaining why adopting the QRS would be such a bad idea and encourage them also to sign on to bills that remove the quality rating system framework from statute (HF 1019 by Reps. Mary Franson and Steve Drazkowski/SF 1299 by Senators Dave Thompson, Pam Wolf, and Roger Chamberlain):

1)      The QRSs are not effective in changing program or child outcomes, are not popular with parents or providers, impose subjective and controversial standards on young children, and are bureaucratic with state control of private preschools and childcare programs that “volunteer” to be rated.  (See Evidence on Effectiveness of Quality Rating Systems for details.)

2)       Adopting a QRS would make it easier to impose all of the other federal control of education that comes with Race to the Top, including the national standards, for which there was bipartisan opposition last year. There is actually a provision prohibiting adoption of the national standards in this current bill by Senator David Hann and Rep. Sondra Erickson that needs to be supported.

3)      The groups representing big business that should be advocating for lower taxes and free markets are demanding increased spending and expansion of government and are publicly undermining the Republican position of not increasing taxes.

4)      This will be an entrée for unions to expand both for childcare workers and preschool teachers.

5)      This will be a huge flip-flop after they have wisely kept the QRS out of both the education bill and the health and human services bills.

The Dayton administration also opposes the other provisions that Education Liberty Watch supports. Please consider letting the governor know that you oppose these big government education ideas.  Please also consider asking the legislators to continue standing firm to delay the adoption of awful social studies standards, the prohibition of the national standards, and ask for an alternative to the state tests in the scholarship/voucher program if that provision stays in the bill.



GOVERNOR MARK DAYTON:  651-201-3400 or http://mn.gov/governor/contact-us/form/


Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch 651-296-5981 sen.amy.koch@senate.mn

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


Senator Gen Olson (Chairwoman) 651-296-1282 sen.gen.olson@senate.mn

Representative Pat Garofalo (Chairman) 651-296-1069 rep.pat.garofalo@house.mn

Representative Sondra Erickson (Policy Chairwoman) 651-296-6746 rep.sondra.erickson@house.mn


Senator Dave Thompson 323 Capitol (651) 296-5252 sen.dave.thompson@senate.mn

Senator Roger Chamberlain (651) 296-1253 sen.roger.chamberlain@senate.mn

Senator Pam Wolf (651) 296-2556 sen.pam.wolf@senate.mn

Representative Mary Franson  651-296-3201 rep.mary.franson@house.mn

Representative Steve Drazkowski 651-296-2273 rep.steve.drazkowski@house.mn

Representative Mark Buesgens 651-296-5185 rep.mark.buesgens@house.mn




May 15, 2011

Education Conference Committee Follow-Up

The Education Finance Conference Committee reached a tentative agreement with language coming out late on May 11th.  Below  is an update and follow-up on the items that we have been following in that committee since our last alert.  Overall, the news is VERY good.  The education committee conferees, especially Senate Chairwoman Gen Olson and House Chairman Pat Garofalo, have done an excellent job instituting many great reforms and protections, including what they kept out of the bill. The deal is still TENTATIVE, because the conference report is not yet signed and negotiations with Governor Dayton are still happening, due to the fact that Governor Dayton refuses to negotiate on the final end of session compromise until the entire budget is before him. Also, because education comprises 40% of the budget and because there are a number of policy provisions in the bill that the governor opposes, negotiations are still ongoing. It will be very important to urge the governor to negotiate and to thank and commend the conferees and leadership about the great things in the bill, asking them to stand strong, and also respectfully warn them about the remaining danger of the voucher bill and request if anything can still be done.


1)   Expansion of the early childhood quality rating system is OUT!! –  The last vestige of this bureaucratic, small business hampering system that would have been implementing state learning standards for 3-5 year old children statewide that Education Liberty Watch has been warning you and fighting against all session is out of the bill.  Congratulations to you for all of your calls and emails and to the conferees for their wise decision!!

2)  $10 million of new early childhood spending is GONE!! – This is also great news.  While well intentioned, this money for early childhood scholarships for poor children would have created perverse incentives to have parents have outsiders raise and educate their children.  If it was to be done, however, it should have taken funds from already existing, ineffective programs like Head Start or ECFE.  We are glad it is gone.

3) Awful social studies standards delayed and national standards prohibited!! – Given the extremely serious concerns about the social studies standards that we have outlined for you here and here, as well as the enormous dangers and problems with the common core national standards, the language in the conference report is fabulous!  Representative Sondra Erickson and Senator David Hann as authors of this legislation and the conferees deserve huge praise for that as well.

4)  Other Great Provisions – Elimination of the requirement for schools to fund psychologists and social workers, a great emphasis both in policy and funding on reading and phonics, early graduation/military scholarships,and various teacher reforms are all to be commended.

The conference report accepted the voucher language from the House bill.  Thankfully and wisely for the autonomy of the private schools and their ability to continue to function as a viable alternative to the public system, all of the mandates that we have warned you about are now gone, except the biggest one – the requirement to have private school students that receive the vouchers take the Minnesota’s state tests, the MCAs, in reading, writing and math.

Why does Education Liberty Watch run the risk of appearing inflexible and ungrateful by still making a big deal out of this last remaining mandate?  Because this language allows the federal curriculum via the national standards to intentionally or unintentionally gain an entree into the private schools.  The supposedly conservative Pawlenty administration adopted the common core national standards in English language last year while everyone was campaigning.  These national standards that have been described as “content and culture” free by expert Sandra Stotsky, one of the authors of the manifesto countering the national standards that we described in our most recent alert. These unconstitutional, academically weak standards that contain the elements of the federal/internationalist agenda will become the basis for the MCAs in reading and writing.  It is bad enough that these are required in our public schools, but highly dangerous that they will become a wedge for controlling the curriculum of private schools as well, eventually rendering them useless as an alternative for the public schools.  This mandate also seems to contradict the intent of the very good language prohibiting implementation of the national standards that are present elsewhere in the large finance bill and it is contrary to the intent of the counter-manifesto of which both Education Liberty Watch and Senate Education Chairwoman Gen Olson were original signatories.

Sadly, instead of advocating for free markets and economic liberty, big business, via the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Partnership, and the Business Roundtable, are the ones most involved in pressuring the Republicans to implement government control over the private schools. They are adamantly opposed to allowing any alternative to testing.  According to this story, they have been and are currently also heavily involved in promoting the quality rating system and the health insurance exchange. Not discussed in the story, but clearly evident was how they are involved in the stadium issues and the expansion of light rail, despite the high cost and need heavy government subsidy. It was discussed in the article that these business groups may well join with Democrats and moderate Republicans to pressure freedom minded conservatives to cave on tax increases or these other big government ideas.

Education Liberty Watch is not against academic accountability for the use of public funds for private school students.  We simply ask that the private schools students that receive the scholarship/voucher have the option of taking either the state test or a nationally norm referenced achievement test such as those taken by private and home schooled students.

1) Thank the Conferees (see below) and the Republicans (House and Senate) for all of the good in the Education Finance Bill and ask them to stand strong to keep these great provisions in and the bad ones like the quality rating system out.


Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch 651-296-5981 sen.amy.koch@senate.mn

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


Senator Gen Olson (Chairwoman) 651-296-1282 sen.gen.olson@senate.mn

Senator Carla Nelson 651-296-4848 sen.carla.nelson@senate.mn

Senator Benjamin Kruse 651-296-4154 sen.benjamin.kruse@senate.mn

Senator Dave Thompson 651-296-5252 sen.dave.thompson@senate.mn

Senator Pam Wolfe   651-296-2556 sen.pam.wolf@senate.mn


Representative Pat Garofalo (Chairman) 651-296-1069 rep.pat.garofalo@house.mn

Representative Connie Doepke   651-296-4315 rep.connie.doepke@house.mn

Representative Sondra Erickson 651-296-6746 rep.sondra.erickson@house.mn

Representative Dan Fabian 651-296-9635 rep.dan.fabian@house.mn

Representative Tim Kelly 651-296-8635 rep.tim.kelly@house.mn

2) Call or email the governor to be actively involved in the negotiations to come up with a budget deal that does not raise taxes or expand the government’s role in education.

GOVERNOR MARK DAYTON:  651-201-3400 or http://mn.gov/governor/contact-us/form/

3) Respectfully warn the conferees and the leadership that the scholarship/voucher language will endanger the autonomy of the private schools and ask them for an alternative to the MCAs for testing and academic accountability or to promote tax credits over scholarships/vouchers if there are any further negotiations on this bill.

May 12, 2011

Imposing a Federal Curriculum on Private Schools – Why Voucher Programs that Require State Tests Are So Dangerous

On May 9th, a group of academics, think tank leaders and policy makers led by Bill Evers of the Hoover Institution, Sandra Stotsky and Jay Greene of the University of Arkansas and others, who have long seen the dangers of a federal curriculum, released a 100+ signatory counter-manifesto to the Shanker Institute and US Department of Education’s efforts to combine national curriculum guidelines and national tests with the Common Core National Standards already being implemented through the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative.

Along with many distinguished groups and policy makers at the state and federal levels, Education Liberty Watch has the honor of being one of the original signatories to this excellent document.  The consortium’s press release discusses the problems and lack of need for these brazen moves to nationalize standards, curriculum, and tests:

  • These efforts are against federal law and undermine the constitutional balance between national and state authority.
  • The evidence doesn’t show a need for national curriculum or a national test for all students.
  • U.S. Department of Education is basing its initiative on inadequate content standards.
  • There is no research-based consensus on what is the best curricular approach to each subject.
  • There is not even consensus on whether a single “best curricular approach” for all students exists.

As is proper, the first and greatest concern listed is the legal/constitutional issue.   This is enormously important, because the U.S. Constitution is silent on the matter of education.  Yet the federal role in education is growing larger by the year. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has the federal government interfering in and setting state and local education policy in a myriad of ways. One good provision in NCLB, however, prohibits federal interference in curriculum.

NCLB is awaiting reauthorization.  The Obama administration/s blueprint for that reauthorization includes requiring that states implement national “college and career” ready standards in order to receive funds under this law.  No one seems to be noticing that federal funding of these standards is a significant violation of that prohibition on federal interference with curriculum as is the federal DOE and Shanker Institute’s effort to develop national curriculum guidelines.

Now thanks to the Race to the Top program’s bribery/thuggery of dangling billions of deficit dollars from the worthless stimulus program paid for with a maxed out credit card to cash starved states to “voluntarily” accept unconstitutional, lowest common denominator national standards and federal control of education, 43-1/2 states and D.C. are implementing these national standards in their states.  (Putative conservative former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s education department adopted the English language arts standards, described by curriculum and standards expert Dr. Sandra Stotsky as “content and culture free,” but was at least wise enough to decline the math standards.)

Yet, these national standards are now or are becoming the basis for the state tests that private schools or low income families that accept vouchers must take.  Hence, not only are public school systems ceding their constitutional authority to determine curriculum in order to try to gain a paltry amount of federal money that if they receive it, will likely not continue, but now the private schools that want to offer poor students a refuge from the academic failure of public schools must give these state tests and only these state tests, which are now based on the national standards.

Continue reading »