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 »

Mar 3, 2012
ELW

MN Takes Center Stage in Academic Standards Battle this Week

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Minnesota legislators played prominent roles this week in the battle to preserve academic liberty at both the state and federal levels. These pieces of legislation that passed the Minnesota Senate and the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee respectively are very important for re-establishing constitutional authority, state sovereignty, and separation of powers, as well as protecting students from the imposition of an indoctrinating federal curriculum coerced with unconstitutional and borrowed federal dollars.

The Minnesota Senate passed a bill (SF 1656) authored by Senator Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) that requires legislative approval before the implementation of academic standards. This is a variation of the bill that the legislature passed last year (audio of testimony available here for 3/16/11 starting at 39:50) prohibiting implementation of any current or future Common Core standards without legislative approval that was sadly vetoed by Governor Mark Dayton as part of the omnibus education finance bill and then dropped during special session negotiations.  The Common Core Standards have been rightly opposed by Education Liberty Watch and many other expert groups and individuals for a multitude of reasons including lack of constitutionality and legality, poor quality, lack of necessity and cost. (See our testimony submitted to the Senate on this bill).

The bill would have also allowed the legislature to weigh in on the horrifically revisionist, anti-academic, anti-American, pro-big government social studies standards revision that are being implemented by the very leftist members of the Dayton education department and the of the “Blame America First” crowd that resides in too much of the academic social studies community.

It is important to note that this bill passed unheralded after the Indiana Senate education committee voted down a bill to withdraw from the Common Core in part because they were too desperate to receive a waiver from Big Brothers Arne Duncan and the Obama administration on NCLB which essentially requires the Common Core in order to receive that waiver. It also occurred after the Obama administration excoriated and threatened the state of South Carolina for even considering exercising their sovereign right to withdraw from the supposedly voluntary Common Core Standards that are being imposed via bribery and blackmail with Race to the Top, Obama’s NCLB reauthorization plans and NCLB waivers. The South Carolina bill, supported by conservative heroine, Governor Nikki Haley, was voted down in a subcommittee of the Senate Education Committee. The bill will still be reviewed by the full Senate Education Committee. Continue reading »

Feb 24, 2012
ELW

Government Preschool Tyranny – “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet!”

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Karen R. Effrem, MD – President

 

The appalling report of government agents demanding inspection of preschoolers’ lunch, judging the home packed lunch not adequately nutritious, seizing the contents, and then billing the family for the government imposed mystery meat nuggets has rightly stirred a storm of controversy. American citizens living in what they thought was the “land of the free and the home of the brave” might be tempted to think that this is just an isolated incident and wouldn’t apply to them or that it only deals with lunch. However, after review of the tyrannical requirements and goals of multiple other government programs for young children, the idea from the classic Bachman Turner Overdrive tune “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” is far more apropos.

Education Liberty Watch has been warning of the dangers to freedom, parental autonomy, academics, and health of programs like quality rating systems (QRIS), Head Start, home visiting, mental health screening, and the preschool Race to the Top (RTT-ELC) for a long time. However, we will focus on Race to the Top because it is the most current and the most comprehensive example of the efforts to consolidate government control over young children in so many interconnected and overarching ways.

The preschool situation is analogous to what is going on in health care. Unfortunately though, instead of fighting against the federalization of preschool the way they have against the federalization of health care, many Republicans have been deceived by big business and liberal foundations that government preschool will somehow close achievement gaps and be the next silver bullet in education. This is despite the facts that there is no evidence of long-term academic gain for children involved in preschool (in fact there is actual evidence of academic harm), and the very people who have presided over the destruction of K-12 public education in this nation – the federal government and unions – want to now control preschool education as well.

The following excerpts are from a summary of the big government nanny-state plans from all of the applicants for the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge at a recent forum held in Washington, DC and put on by the Early Learning Challenge Collaborative. For the sake of time and space, here are some highlights of the most chillingly freedom robbing initiatives from the nine winners of the $550 million boondoggle (Only winning applications will be discussed for time and space reasons.  Text in bold italic font is added emphasis) :

1) More Lunch Box Monitoring – Delaware in its application highlighted plans to expand its health and nutrition guidelines and “will include an online version of a toolkit that includes a self-assessment, nutrition rules, tools to plan healthy eating, feeding guidelines, family engagement guidance, and physical activity guidelines.” It sounds as though we will soon be hearing similar stories out of Delaware as we did out of North Carolina. Continue reading »

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