Karen Effrem and Education Liberty Watch point that
In three different and very significant ways, the Dayton administration has admitted that their ultimate aim is to have the state control the curriculum standards first for those governing all preschool and childcare programs in the state that “volunteer” to become involved in the Parent Aware Quality Rating System (the QRS), the Race to the Top preschool grant program, or the early childhood scholarship program regardless of whether these programs are public, private or religious. This seems to be the foundation for then controlling ALL preschool curriculum. (More on that in future alerts).Why is this a problem? It further usurps and injects government in family matters and the raising of children. It sends the message to parents that the government will take over more of their responsibilies and it injects politically correctness on a number of family and social concerns.
Minnesota’s Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant application neatly ties all three situations together. The document unabashedly states (p. 87):
“Minnesota’s Early Learning and Development Standards (called the Early Childhood Indicators of Progress, or ECIPs-see C1) for children birth to five are at the foundation of [Parent] Aware. Parent Aware Program Standards require that instruction and assessment be aligned with the ECIPs and the ratings are built on the ECIPs, which function like a scaffold. For example, ELD Programs must ensure that their staff members are familiar with the ECIPs before earning 1 star, and to reach 3 or 4 stars requires both familiarity with the ECIPs and also alignment of curriculum and assessment with them.” (Emphasis added)
In other words, the Parent Aware QRS, even though “voluntary,” mandates a top-down government run curriculum in order for programs to receive the highest ratings, and therefore all of the financial and policy goodies that accompany those top ratings. Adherence to program standards of the QRS that include curriculum alignment to these standards is then the cornerstone of both the Race to the Top Application and the early childhood scholarships. The quality rating system was the top point garnering criterion on the $500 million Race to the Top application which also requires statewide preschool standards and wide participation by preschool programs, including private and religious ones, which comprise more than 80% of the childcare market in Minnesota. The scholarships were a high priority of some of the lead House education negotiators during the final closed negotiations of the shutdown at the end of the 2011 session. The Dayton Education Department recently and arrogantly reported (January 26th) to the House Education Finance Committee that, despite the lack of statutory authority to use the QRS in distribution of those scholarships, they are going to allow use of scholarship funds only at programs that earn 3 or 4 stars, i.e. that require these standards, and parents may not conscientiously object to these standards if they want a scholarship. Are we seeing a pattern here?