Apr 2, 2012
ELW

MN Continues Fight Against Federal & Executive Overreach

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Karen R. Effrem, MD – President

 

As the state and federal controversies increase over the unconstitutional and illegal requirements of the No Child Left behind waivers and the equally unconstitutional and illegal implementation of the Common Core Standards via federal funding and requirements, Minnesota legislators continue to step up to the plate.

The House Education Reform Committee passed the companion to the bill that we described in our recent alert, MN Takes Center Stage in Academic Standards Battle this Week. The House bill authored by Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton), chairwoman of the House Education Reform Committee, simply requires that there be approval by the people’s representatives in the legislature before the state department of education would adopt future Common Core Standards such as happened with the English language arts standards under the Pawlenty administration or the wholesale rewriting that is producing the very revisionist social studies standards being put in place by the Dayton administration. That bill passed the committee essentially on a party line voice vote (audio available here starting at about 27:28 with Dr. Effrem’s testimony at about 1:07 A written version of her similar recent Senate testimony is available here).

The other big development is the introduction of a bill, HF 2905 by Representative Bob Barrett (R-Schafer), and SF 2928 by Senators Sean Nienow (R-Cambridge) and David Hann (R-Eden Prairie), to require the commissioner of education to seek Minnesota’s own waiver to No Child Left Behind based on the state’s needs and laws. This would be in place of the illegal, unconstitutional, conditional and temporary waiver that Minnesota received from the Obama administration, one that among its other problems, in essence requires the Common Core Standards. This bill enjoyed wide bipartisan support during the 2008 legislative session when the Democrats were in control of the legislature and passed the House floor unanimously as an amendment by Rep. Carolyn Laine (DFL- Columbia Heights) to the education finance omnibus bill. Sadly, it was removed from the omnibus bill after a veto threat by then Governor Tim Pawlenty.

These bills are closely related and very important, not only in Minnesota but around the nation to the whole essence of state’s rights, separation of powers, the rule of law, and academic freedom. As Neil McCluskey of the Cato Institute correctly points out, although overshadowed by the health care reform debate at the US Supreme Court, these issues are analogous to and should be viewed as the “other, almost complete, federal takeover.” Continue reading »

Mar 29, 2012
ELW

MN Legislature Schools Dayton DOE on Separation of Powers

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Karen R. Effrem, MD – President

In answer to our March 9th query,” How Will Legislature Deal with Dayton DOE Lawlessness on QRS??,” both the House and Senate education committees have responded forcefully and well. On March 27th, the House Education Finance Committee passed their omnibus education bill, HF 2949, containing language that deals specifically with the issue of the Department of Education’s efforts to implement the early childhood scholarships by requiring that recipients attend a program that has been rated by the quality rating system (QRS). (Audio is available here).

The provision contains language from two different bills. One, HF 1828, by Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck) requires the scholarship funds to be evenly divided between metro and rural recipients. The other, HF 2729, by Rep. Jennifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie) after an excellent amendment by Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton), makes sure that parents can use the scholarship to attend the program of their choice and takes $250,000 of the scholarship funds for a voluntary, parent-involved, home-based literacy-only program that does not use or require the use of a QRS.  Education Liberty Watch was willing to suspend its usual skepticism of home visiting programs for this one based on the facts that it was not a typical home visiting program and that it was accomplishing other important purposes.

The Senate bill, SF 2107, is authored by Senator Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) and contains only the funding for the home based program without any other changes. The bill passed unanimously out of committee after some minor amendments and awaits action on the Senate floor.

During the committee process, both the House and Senate firmly instructed the Department of Education on the separation of powers when they objected to the funding and other changes in the scholarship program. House Education Finance Committee Chairman Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) said during the initial March 14th hearing on the Loon bill:

“I stand up for the legislative branch as a coequal partner in government. If the department is of the opinion that they can get out the truck and drive over us on this issue, they are sadly mistaken and in a bad place to be” Continue reading »

Mar 14, 2012
ELW

Early Childhood Scholarship Testimony

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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.

Mar 9, 2012
ELW

How Will Legislature Deal with Dayton DOE Lawlessness on QRS??

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We have previously reported the Mark Dayton administration’s Department of Education has unilaterally expanded a pilot quality rating system (QRS) statewide, as well as tied the state and its childcare providers into the unconstitutional, ineffective, bureaucratic, and expensive Race to the Top preschool federal grant program and is requiring a state preschool scholarship program recipients to implement this QRS without statutory authority.

At a hearing of the House Education Finance Committee on January 26th, Chairman Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington), even though a great proponent of the QRS, expressed severe displeasure at the administration’s lawless behavior actually saying that he and other supporters like QRS bill author Rep. Jennifer Loon (R-Edina) had “been rolled” or cheated by the DOE. Rep. Garofalo was also highly displeased that the DOE showed not the slightest intention of working collaboratively on an implementation plan, but was there merely to report what they were going to do whether the legislature liked it or not. The concern over lack of statutory authority was also properly mentioned by another QRS proponent, Rep. Brandon Petersen (R-Andover), who is now running for the state senate, and who believes that the QRS is part of providing “efficient” government.

Other very important issues were raised by QRS opponents at that January hearing. House Education Policy Chairwoman Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) asked very good questions about the QRS requirement that any private or religious program that takes scholarship recipients must, in order to be three or four star rated, impose the radical Early Childhood Indicators of Progress (ECIP) without any opportunity for conscientious objection by the parents or providers. Some of the more egregious examples of these standards for 3-5 year olds include:

Develop an awareness of self as having certain abilities, characteristics, and preferences

Begin to develop awareness, knowledge, and acceptance of own gender and cultural identity

Use play to explore, practice, and understand social roles and relationships

Begin to understand and respond to others’ emotions

Recognize and describe the roles of workers in the community

Share responsibility in taking care of their environment

Show interest and respect for the creative work of self and others Continue reading »

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