Unalottment: don't let this crisis go to waste

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before." —Rahm Emmanuel, Obama White House Chief of Staff

In his July unalottment, Tim Pawlenty has an opportunity to put a nice bow on the signature education reforms of his two terms as Minnesota's governor. Although Pawlenty has been reluctant to cut education funding at all this biennium, holding education (mostly the teachers union) harmless will be problematic given that K-12 education consumes 39.1% of the state's $35 billion budget.

As detailed in an e-mail to supporters and their 2010-2011 budget recommendations, EdWatch sees unalottment as Pawlenty's opportunity to cut education programs that are ineffective and "undermine parental authority and autonomy."

Among the items on the EdWatch hit list are some programs that EdWatch has opposed for years:

Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) (Current: $51,850,000, Governor: $44,745,000, EdWatch: $0) - EdWatch reports that ECFE, "according to the Legislative Auditor, shows no evidence of developmental gains for children and only some increase in parental feelings of effectiveness."

Head Start (Current: $40,200,000, Governor: $40,200,000, EdWatch: $0) - This program is widely assumed to be effective, but EdWatch claims that "More than 600 studies show the lack of effectiveness of this program, there are several studies showing emotional harm to participants, and Minnesota already received $189.5 million in federal funds over the last two federal fiscal years for this."

International Baccalaureate (IB) - EdWatch would cut $2.7 million for IB tests and programs. It has long maintained that Advanced Placement (AP) programs are "locally controlled, prepare students better for college, comport with MN academic standards, and are far less expensive." In fact, some school districts have passed in adding IB course in favor of AP for these same reasons.

Kindergarten Readiness Assessment and Intervention Program (Current: $573,000, Governor: $574,000, EdWatch: $0) - According to EdWatch, this assessment "uses very vague and subjective criteria based on very vague, subjective, and politically correct outcomes, The Early Childhood Indicators of Progress. This ridiculous assessment gives fuel to the Nanny State falsely claiming that 50% of Minnesota children are not ready for kindergarten."

The EdWatch recommendations include a total of eight education items and eight health and human services items that are education-related. Governor Pawlenty and Education Commissioner Alice Seagren should seriously consider these proposed cuts as they work through unalottment.