In his March 9 State of the State address, Governor Tim Pawlenty announced another sweeping education agenda. "Education made Minnesota what it is today," said Pawlenty, "and education will make us what we will become tomorrow."
The Minnesota governor announced the first of these initiatives before the address. Pawlenty's early childhood education initiatives would fund kindergarten readiness, child care, and base Head Start funding on the number of children served rather than the number eligible. These programs would be funded largely by approximately $10.2 million in the first year and $10 million per year thereafter in redirected federal TANF funds. The Head Start measure would be revenue neutral or save money.
Scholar has always been dubious about Profile of Learning-like early childhood "standards" and mental health "screening" programs like those advocated by the well-funded advocacy group Ready4$. On March 20, EdWatch issued a sweeping action alert to its members about the governor's proposals, which it sees as intrusive on parental rights and ineffective to boot.
Like Freddy Krueger who refuses to die in a bad horror movie, the Nanny State that was valiantly fought off last year is back in full force. This year, the over $10 million state takeover of parenting, early childhood education, mental health screening, and corporate welfare scheme is coming from big-government legislators from both parties and from Governor Pawlenty, as well.
...Tell your elected officials; regardless of party, that the Profile of Learning took six long years to repeal, and it was a disaster for our K-12 students. These bills would re-implement it for toddlers and preschoolers. Tell them that the state has absolutely no authority to screen, assess, indoctrinate, remediate and otherwise control the minds of our youngest children and that you will not cede it to them. Tell them you do not want the state to impose their non-academic, psychosocial curriculum on the 80% of childcare in Minnesota that is private, including friends and relatives. Let businesses pay for their own employee childcare costs.
Conservative Republicans are going to have an uphill battle resisting this expansion of the education bureaucracy, with Governor Pawlenty, former governor Al Quie, and other well-meaning Republicans supporting them. "It's for the children," after all.
I counted another eight education reform initiatives in Pawlenty's state of the state address:
- Require that at least 70 percent of school funding is spent on classroom expenses - High school teacher Rep. Karen Klinzing's bill, HF2486, sets this level at 65%. An interesting idea that pits the principles of local control vs. "who pays the piper calls the tune."
- Require Algebra I by eighth grade and Algebra II and Chemistry to graduate from high school - how will the Algebra requirements work in "integrated math" districts, which do not use a sequential curriculum?
- Add digital literacy to the state's academic standards
- Provide $7 million in financial incentives to "at least ten" school districts to provide Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate for all students - this support for IB is sure to generate controversy in conservative circles, as it has in the Minnetonka School District and others in the west metro.
- Provide funding to up to five high schools to "fundamentally overhaul" their structure to focus on college preparation or technical training
- Provide a model Chinese language curriculum from the Department of Education to school districts
- Pass "school choice" for at least the most disadvantaged students - code word for vouchers?
- "Seek out and authorize" Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools for disadvantaged students - BRAVO. Knowledge-based programs such as KIPP and Core Knowledge are proven performers, especially in areas on the wrong side of the achievement gap (are you listening Minneapolis and Saint Paul?