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Sunday, August 7, 2011

a peek at the rift between the MNGOP grassroots and legislative-lobbyist elites

Get the popcorn: a peek at the rift between the MNGOP grassroots and legislative-lobbyist elites

36B Progressive friends wrapped themselves in their purple beach towels yesterday and began texting Bluestem shortly thereafter, once Charley Shaw's Friday afternoon news feature in PIM, Many in GOP base angry at Legislature, floated up on their tablets.
All of the messages? Some variation on "Get the popcorn." This is a show to watch.
Why do the heathens--or whatever--rage at their leadership? Shaw sets up the case:
. . .But in the wake of the 2011 legislative session, the loudest cries of protest are coming from the Republican Party activist base, which is angry about the performance of their elected brethren who were installed in the majorities last January. . .
Some Republican activists are frustrated that the 2010 electoral victories didn’t translate into a fuller realization of the conservative agenda. Their view of the borrowing contained in the final budget ranges from dispirited to enraged, and many are also extremely critical of the way House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch went about setting their initial budget of roughly $34 billion.
Three GOP House committee chairs draw particular fire: Abeler, Gottwalt and Garofalo. Consider the source of their scorn for the final man in that series:
Garofalo, the chairman of the House Education Finance Committee, ran afoul of conservatives with an education quality rating system called Parent Aware. Conservatives decried the program for expanding the state’s education bureaucracy.
Bluestem's curiosity was piqued, and so I scurried to the House website, only to find it under maintenance until this afternoon. In the meantime, a bit of reading to discover the deets of the grassroots' irritation.
It wasn't poison ivy, but an alert easily found at Education Liberty Watch, in the March 28 Urgent Update on Minnesota Education Spending Bills.
It's not just the bureaucracy. It's the freedom and liberty--and the competition between private preschools and home daycares. Education Liberty Freedom EdWatch President Karen Effrem, "the only one to her knowledge of the dozens of people who testified about these bills that asked for cuts of any kind," wrote to those who insist on Education for a FREE nation:
Worse yet, after passing the House education spending bill out of the Education Finance Committee, Chairman Pat Gorafalo (R.-Farmington) added $26 million more spending to the bill in the Ways and Means Committee, including $4 million in more spending to early childhood for these scholarships.  (The spreadsheet is available here).
Rep. Garofalo and Rep. Jim  Abler (R-Anoka) were able to come to some understanding about the turf battles related to education vs. child care and policy issues of the quality rating system. They were aided by the strong work and advice of Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria), a child care provider who understands the dangers of this quality rating system on private home providers.  The chairmen are both to be strongly commended for agreeing to not impose the mandates/bureaucratic burden of this “voluntary” system on private family child care providers. Rep. Garofalo should also be thanked strongly for the part of the amendment prohibiting state interference in curriculum.
In exchange for that however, Rep. Garofalo kept the statewide ramp-up of Parent Aware in his bill using the bureaucratic, central economy promoting governor’s economic development regions. The amendment also redefines preschools as both public and private for the purposes of the bill.  This means that the government controlled QRS system is imposed on private preschools instead of just public school readiness or Head Start programs as we had been led to believe was the case  This is the equivalent of giving the commissioner of education jurisdiction over private K-12 schools that accept scholarships for poor children.  This is completely unacceptable!! [emphasis in the original]
Oh noes! So what fiends dreamt up the notion of scholarships for low-income parents to send their kids to private pre-schools?
The clue came when finally, the Legislature's website was restored, along with its massive store of hundreds and hundreds of bills, including the omnibus education bill, HF 934.1 that so gave Dr. Effrem the fantods. The Parent Aware program does seem pretty complex, but I was struck by something else.
Those scholarships for low-income folks to private preschools.  Where had I seen that idea beforeHeck, reading  Sec. 4. [119C.04] EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION SCHOLARSHIPS recalled the American Legislative Exchange Council's Smart Start Scholarship Program model bill, tweaked for the Gopher State.
Effrem and home daycare providers (many of whom are mothers who like to think of themselves as  stay at home moms and businesswomen at the same time) share an objection:
Even worse, the House increases early childhood spending by incentivizing poor families to put their children in preschool instead of educating them at home with early childhood scholarships . . .
Putting aside fears of leaving the education of small children to those who employ such flagrantly misplaced modifiers, this statement exposes a cultural and economic fault line on the right.
Shouldn't we avoid spending money on early childhood education--despite the benefits of that investment, sung by the gnomes of Zurich masquerading as economists at the local branch of the evil Federal Reserve bank--and thereby tighten control of the kiddies as well our belts? And allow the fiction to flourish among cultural conservatives that families don't need schools or dual-incomes (even if one parent performs work in the home in addition to rearing one's own children)? Home schooling, baby.
And what good would that public investment in early childhood education be unless it can be immediately monetized?
Shouldn't an opportunity for making money be shifted with the public dime to private preschools with more-or-less standard curriculum? Let poor families mimic the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous who compete for places in exclusive pre-schools. We've all seen that on television. Why shouldn't the private preschool operator get a piece of those dreams, rather than those dirty hippies down at the Head Start? And whet the public appetite for public funds for private scholarships and vouchers, as well as charter schools?
It's a horrible dilemma for the freedom-loving conservative who is fighting for liberty and hating on the "government schools." Homeschool? Or handing a chunk of the public exchequer to job creators at private schools?
While ALEC supports home-schooling--especially if home schooling parents or taxpayers get a chance to buy some online education via one set of its corporate and non-profit funders--another set of think tanks and corporations looks to make money by dismantling public schools simply by getting kids into privately owned bricks and mortar.  Far more of the education model bills have to do with those private schools than homeschooling.
And so you have it, dear readers, buried with the first engrossment of the K12 Education Omnibus budget bill: the battle royal within the contemporary Republican party.  Cultural conservatives who dominate the Tea Party movement (in Minnesota, at least) or "job-creating" corporatists looking to enhance profit centers via out-sourcing the function of the public schools?
Ah, yes. Pop some corn.
Photo: Pat Garofalo, hero of the revolution or grassroots Benedict Arnold? It's Sue Jeffers' call.

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