Jun 30, 2011

Do We Want Liberty or “Efficient Government”?

Unfortunately, not all of the proponents of the nanny state expansion of government control over child care and preschool reside in the liberal media, the big business left or the Democrat party.  Some are in the Republican Party.  One of them, Rep. Branden Petersen (R-Andover) was one of the seven House Republicans out of 67 that voted to keep the Quality Rating System/Early Childhood Voucher bill in the House education finance bill.  He tried to defend that position during an interview with Jack Tomczak on the Late Debate on June 22nd in response to an interview that I did on that show on education on the 20th.  Rep. Petersen continued to use all of the same arguments of the nanny state crowd that I have refuted multiple times in this space, on Education Liberty Watch, in testimony and in media debates – “the program is voluntary,” “it will provide accountability,” etc. Although there is much that needs to be refuted again in what he said and despite the fact that he called himself “limited government conservative,”  this particular exchange will clearly illustrate the rift between true small government, constitutional conservatives and the “compassionate” big government establishment being played out at all levels of the Republican party all the way to the GOP presidential nomination:

Starting at 23:37

Rep. Branden Petersen (BP):  “…and Ed Liberty Watch and some members of our caucus [92% of them] were able to successfully eliminate essentially that provision out of the finance bill. And I think it was well intentioned from a limited government standpoint. You know, even I generally agree with the fact that ideally government shouldn’t be involved in early childhood.

Host Jack Tomczak (JT):  “Sure…but we’re not going to get to the ideal by funding it…

BP: “Right.”

JT: “…by having the state fund pre-K, we’re never going to get to that ideal of the government not being involved.”

BP: “Right”

JT: “Here forever?”

BP: “Well I think I don’t want to give up entirely, but what I would say is that with the federal involvement in Head Start, it’s something outside of our control.”

JT: “Sure”

BP:  And that we’re spending a large amount of money on it. And I think if we are going to do that, as a limited government conservative, liberty-minded conservative, I prefer limited government wherever possible, and where it’s not possible, I prefer an efficient, outcome based, results-oriented government…

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Jun 30, 2011

Preschool is NOT the Panacea Portrayed in Study

Proponents of an ever larger government role in early childhood care and education are using results from a new study of poor, minority children in Chicago from Arthur Reynolds at the University of Minnesota  to bolster their claims that public preschool is helpful for these children and that these benefits last well into adulthood.  Here is a quote from the study abstract:

“Findings demonstrate support for the enduring effects of sustained school-based early education to the end of the third decade of life.”

The media reviews of this study have been absolutely gushing, especially in Minnesota where there is a huge effort to expand early childhood programs and increase government regulation of private childcare and preschool programs. Here is an example:

“And if there is an Exhibit A to a redress, it should start with the recently published findings of University of Minnesota researcher Arthur J. Reynolds and a group of associates…

Described as the longest follow-up ever to an established large-scale early childhood program, the research focused on participants in a publicly funded early childhood development program that began in preschool and provides up to six years of service in the Chicago public schools.”

Statistically Significant, But Not Practically Important Differences:

The full study was reviewed.  The study compared 989 low income minority children who participated in the Chicago Parent Child Centers (CPC) public preschool program for one or two years and up to four years of extra help in grades K-3 in the Chicago public schools to 550 low income minority children, 15% of whom participated in Head Start, with the rest cared for at home and who all participated in all-day kindergarten and received the same sort of help in grades K-3.    There were several differences reported as statistically significant between the group that had preschool (CPC) and the non-preschool group, but as reported by Lindsey Tanner of the Associated Press, the overall results for these kids are still “dismal:”

“To be sure, the challenges facing the children in both groups were still insurmountable for many. As adults, the average annual income for those who went to preschool is less than $12,000 and almost half of them had been arrested as adults. As dismal as those outcomes [are], the numbers were still better than for the group that didn’t attend preschool.”

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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]

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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