Herald and Journal, Jan. 22, 2001

Why the 'baby ed' proposal is bad for children and parents

By Karen R. Effrem, M.D.

The Action Plan for Early Care and Education in Minnesota was released in November 2000.

This plan, massive in scope and cost, proposed to spend $480 million per year ($1 billion per biennium or a 4 percent increase in state spending) on the following and more for all children under age 5 in the state of Minnesota.

The plan includes:

- Expand parent education through ECFE ­ $35 million

- Expand parental leave funded by taxpayers and business ­ $21 million

- Promote and expand "school-readiness" programs through early childhood education ­ $78 million

- Expand Head Start with its education, health care, and home visiting components for children from infancy to age 5 ­ $95 million

- Refundable tax credits for families with children under 5 with graded eligibility requirements ­ $160 million

- Childcare assistance programs ­ $35 million

- Childcare worker training and retention programs ­ $40 million

- Rating and accreditation of childcare facilities ­ $2 million

- Referral programs and bonding for new buildings ­ $14 million

Despite lofty sounding rhetoric about the need to "change the way we treat our youngest children" and religious images of "a new covenant between parents and Minnesota," this plan is nothing short of a wholesale takeover by the state of the care of our very youngest and most vulnerable children. It is the substitution of big government for parents.

In reality, what this plan does is the following:

- Expand public education with all of its admitted problems to infants, toddlers, preschool aged children.

- Expand invasive and failed federal programs like School-to-Work and Goals 2000 into early childhood age group as described in Goal 1 of Goals 2000 ­ All children will start school ready to learn. This means that government monitoring of all children will begin at or before birth.

- Expand ineffective and constitutionally flawed home visiting programs and the monitoring and indoctrination of parents via "education programs."

- "Teacher certification" rules for daycare and early childhood workers using a "national standard" that uses a politically correct curriculum.

- Imposition of a politically correct curriculum on vulnerable children to indoctrinate them towards multi-culturalism, radical environmentalism, and sexual politics even before they enter kindergarten.

- Creation of a government-run child care monopoly via burdensome regulations and accreditation, resulting in fewer independent family and/or religious providers.

- Emphasis on large center-based childcare, which is developmentally inferior, more prone to infectious diseases, and remains the lowest preference of parents.

- The takeover of parental rights and responsibilities that is subsidized by employers and taxpayers with the cost of those employer subsidies passed onto consumers.

- Integration of education, health and social services via school-based clinics and full service schools (corresponding to Hillary Clinton's vision of "It takes a village to raise a child).

- Massive data collection on families and children from prenatal care onward.

This initiative is based on false premises and manufactured crises, including the following:

- Government-run childcare would somehow enhance brain development of children.

- Any deficits in development and child-rearing in the first three years cannot be overcome.

- The failure of the public schools are due to a lack of readiness on the part of those children entering kindergarten.

- There is a child care crisis in Minnesota.

- Parents want more government programs and large center-based child care for their children.

- Center-based care is good for children.

- Home-visiting programs are effective despite their enormous cost and invasion of family and medical privacy.

- The national accrediting body for childcare facilities and workers has no political agenda.

- The federal and state governments have the right to plan and manage the economy including workforce preparation via education from birth.

All parts of this initiative should be completely rejected by the people of Minnesota and their elected representatives. Families are shouldering the highest tax burden and the heaviest level of government intrusion into their lives at any time in our nation's history.

There has been a huge shift of the tax burden to families with children. Instead, parents must be empowered by letting them keep their hard-earned money to raise their own children by increasing the personal income tax exemption for children and allowing the dependent care tax credit to apply to all types of childcare, including at-home care by parents, not just to large centers for parents who work outside the home.

The 1925 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Pierce vs. Society of Sisters, plainly states that parents have the primary responsibility in raising their children:

"The child is not the mere creature of the State: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations."

The only thing government must do is get out of the way.

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