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June 4, 2007

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MN Session Report, Part I: The Good & The Bad

        EdWatch began the 2007 session bracing for a disaster. (See " EdWatch President Speaks Out! "). We avoided a disaster, thanks to the involvement of so many people calling, e-mailing, showing up, and visiting with their lawmakers. We're grateful for you and for the very important successes -- successes that appeared impossible at the outset.

        Yet we also lost important ground. The 2007 Minnesota legislature set some destructive policies in motion.

         Holding the line on taxes spared us some damage. Unrestrained government -- government with a blank check -- is always dangerous to freedom and families, providing no limit to bureaucratic mischief and the insatiable appetite for public money. Jason Lewis and the Tax Cut Coalition deserve high praise for raising the public voice on taxes. (See "EdWatch Featured at Tax Cut Rally.") The Governor deserves thanks and credit for insisting on tax limits. A strong, unified legislative minority deserves great thanks and credit for exposing the agenda of the left and upholding the Governor's vetoes.

        The winners in school funding were Minneapolis, St. Paul and St. Cloud. The biggest losers were rural districts where the per pupil funding gap with metro schools widened dramatically. Notably, the top House and Senate leadership positions are also from Minneapolis (Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the House) and St. Cloud (Assistant Senate Majority Leader).

        With the Governor's final signatures, vetoes and line item vetoes now on the final bills that were passed before midnight on Monday, May 21st, the 2007 EdWatch Three-Part Legislative Report is complete.

Part I:    Nanny State Expansion
Part II: Psychological Screening
Part III: International Baccalaureate and Other Issues

PART I:
Nanny State Expansion
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 1.) New Early Childhood Entitlement -- Fails
The take-over of private and religious child care failed. It would have established a new entitlement ("preschool allowances") to all families of preschoolers to be redeemed ONLY at state certified providers. (See "Planned Chaos at the Capitol.") This would have amounted to state-required certification of virtually all early care providers. Certification extends beyond simple licensing. Certification is based on a rating system established by an unelected organization (Minnesota Early Learning Foundation, see #3 below) in compliance with the controversial and biased state outcomes the Minnesota Early Childhood Indicators of Progress that include teaching a curriculum of gender identity training, diversity training, environmentalism, group identity, and careers.

The new-entitlement-takeover was held back only by its $54 million price tag. The final Health and Human Services spending bill (HF 1078) substituted a $6 million pilot preschool scholarship program targeted to low-income families instead of this new entitlement for all families with preschoolers. However, the substitute scholarship program tacked on some very bad early childhood policy. (See # 6 below.)

[]   2.) Community Hubs -- Fails
Every aspect of parenting and family life being placed under the purview of some government program and run through public schools failed. The program would have started before birth and expanded the Profile of Learning type assessments for preschoolers. It would have required alignment with the Profile of Learning type outcomes (Minnesota Early Childhood Indicators of Progress) for preschoolers that deal with gender issues, careers and environmentalism. It referenced accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children which teaches sex, gender issues, homosexuality, witchcraft, careers and environmentalism to 3 and 4 year olds, and which does nothing to close the achievement gap. The Hubs would have collected extensive personal data on families.

This program failed because it cost over $20 million. Once again, only the brake on raising taxes kept this monster from becoming reality in Minnesota.

[]  3.) Repealing accountability measures over the unelected Minnesota Early Learning Foundation -- Fails
Attempts to repeal existing open meeting laws, salary limits, legislative audits, and the Governor appointing some members to the governing board of the unelected Minnesota Early Learning Foundation (MELF) failed. MELF is one of a vast network of "non-governmental organizations" (NGOs) run by self-appointed boards that are notorious for their liberal, social change agendas, funded by wealthy foundations with the same liberal social change agendas. MELF is an aggressive proponent of the Nanny State -- government taking authority over children from birth on. Previous state law has granted MELF state agency-like authority over policy making that will affect which providers are eligible to participate in state scholarships, tax credits, grants, allowances or vouchers for early childhood programs. These are governing powers that belong in the hands of state agencies that are directly accountable to elected office holders.

EdWatch opposes NGOs being granted governing authority. Transferring government to NGOs does not limit government -- it expands government by removing it from accountability to the voters. However, these minimal accountability measures, at least, were inserted into statute in 2005, in response to EdWatch's criticism. After these passed, MELF then refused to accept its 2005 legislative appropriation, rather than comply with some Governor appointments to its board or submit to open meeting laws and audits. This year some legislators attempted to have that accountability removed, but they failed.

 [] 4.) Expansion of Home Visiting -- Passes
Partnerships to expand state home visiting programs, including prenatally, passed in the Health and Human Services spending bill. (See "Womb to Tomb Control.") The program will examine private data on families without consent in order to involve them in the program. It will collect and distribute that data without consent to a whole range of government agencies. It will also connect families to government services and early childhood programs, encouraging family dependence on government and on getting children out of the home. It will train parents in the most liberal views on how to parent. This program was widely opposed by many groups in the state, including EdWatch, the Minnesota Family Council, the Citizens' Council on Health Care, the Tax Cut Coalition, activists from the minority community, talk radio, and several blogs. EdWatch was disappointed that there was no line-item veto of any of the $16,839 million appropriation for this invasive measure.

 [] 5.) State Training of Family, Friends and Neighbors -- Passes
Grants for the state to train family, friends and neighbors on how to raise and educate children passed in the Health and Human Services Bill. Training of aunts and grandmothers will be based on the controversial and radical Minnesota Early Childhood Indicators of Progress that include gender identity training, diversity training, environmentalism, group identity, and careers. EdWatch hoped for a line-item veto of this measure.

[]   6.) Quality Rating System/Early Childhood Outcomes -- Passes
A "quality rating system" (QRS) passed -- a system established by the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation (MELF) and based on the controversial and very liberal state-defined child outcomes. MELF, an unelected NGO that promotes government taking authority over early childhood, will rate private and religious preschool programs based on the Profile of Learning type outcomes (Early Learning Indicators of Progress) for preschoolers that deal with gender issues, careers and environmentalism. The QRS will rate all providers whether or not they use scholarship money. It will also be used to qualify providers to receive funds from the $6 million pilot preschool scholarship program to low-income families. Pilots will be implemented by the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation (MELF) in three areas of the state: St. Paul, Hennepin County and Blue Earth/Nicollet Counties. The QRS will also be piloted in these areas.

This is the most dangerous education measure passed this session, tacked onto what could have been a good early childhood scholarship pilot program. In addition to bringing private and religious early childhood providers under the purview of the controversial and radical state outcomes through a QRS, it also requires that in order for these providers to receive state scholarship allowances, they must use state-approved curriculum that are also in line with the controversial state assessments.

The early childhood QRS/state curriculum system being imposed on private and religious providers is a voucher system with "strings." EdWatch has warned strongly against K-12 education vouchers with "strings" (requirements beyond simple licensing). This early childhood scholarship pilot program models the problem of vouchers with strings: Every provider that accepts the state allowances will be subject to state-defined outcomes through the curriculum and assessment requirements. Eighty percent of early childhood providers are currently independent. As the program expands beyond low-income families to include all families (as the earlier conference committee bill proposed - see item #1), the de facto state take-over of all early childhood programs will be complete. Governor Pawlenty had rightly line item vetoed funding for a QRS program last year.  Unfortunately that did not happen this year. EdWatch will oppose the expansion of this model program.

[]  7.) Subsidies for controversial TEACH certificate -- Passes  
Scholarships for TEACH certification (Teacher Education and Compensation Helps) for early childhood providers seeking advanced degrees passed in the Higher Education spending bill. TEACH requires the radical National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) curriculum. (See EdWatch update of March 30, 2007.)  NAEYC promotes teaching sexuality issues to young children. (See their sex ed curriculum from their online store.) NAEYC publishes and promotes the Anti-Bias Curriculum which discusses gender identity, anatomy, and gender roles with three year olds. It also discusses homosexuality, witchcraft, environmentalism, multiculturalism, and training in political activism. These curricula do nothing to close the achievement gap. EdWatch hoped for a line-item veto of this measure.

COMING NEXT: MN Session Report, Part II
Psychological Screening


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952-361-4931 www.edwatch.org - edwatch@lakes.com

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