At the end of October, I wrote about the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) adopting the “North Dakota Learning Standards Birth to Kindergarten 2018 Edition“. Yes, you read it right— birth to Kindergarten. The standards are the result of a joint effort between DPI and North Dakota Health & Human Services.
At the time I wrote the October article, I expressed the view that my problem is more with the fact that DPI sees itself as having some sort of role in the development of our children — from birth on — than it is with the standards themselves. I wondered if such standards are an indication we’re heading down a road that leads to further government intrusion when it comes to parents and their children’s education?
Unfortunately, it appears my concerns may be well-founded. This is evident in House Bill 1104. As you can see, there’s no real bill sponsor like we see with so many of the other pieces of legislation featured here on The Minuteman. Instead, it’s an agency bill that was introduced by the Human Services Committee at the request of the Department of Human Services.
What does the bill seek to accomplish? It would add to the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s existing authority over the “quality improvement process” of early childhood education programs by adding the following verbiage:
“The superintendent of public instruction may conduct a quality improvement process for all early childhood programs and self-declarations licensed or approved under chapter 50-11.1 and for programs approved by the superintendent.” (Emphasis Added)
Just for clarification, a “self-declaration” means:
“… voluntary documentation of an individual providing early childhood services in a private residence for up to five children through the age of eleven, of which no more than three may be under the age of twenty-four months.”
This voluntary “self-declaration” for licensure is necessary for caregivers who want to provide services to those receiving childcare assistance.
So, just as the bill says, the Superintendent of Public Instruction would have authority over all licensed early childcare providers when it comes to technical assistance (i.e. training, coaching, etc.) and the “quality improvement process”. These aspects are currently overseen by Lutheran Social Services (LSS). Their program for technical assistance is called Childcare Aware of North Dakota. The system for quality improvement is known as “Bright & Early North Dakota“. According to the latter’s website:
“The Bright & Early ND 4-Star Rating System helps parents and providers assess how a child care program supports a child’s early learning and development. Bright & Early ND is an initiative led by the ND Department of Human Services (DHS) to ensure that North Dakota’s children receive the quality child care and preschool they need for success in school and life.”
I’m personally not a fan of the government being involved in this at all. If we put this new authority over licensed childcare providers together with the authority already possessed over K-12 education, we literally have DPI’s Superintendent of Public Instruction with cradle to college authority. And let’s not forget the comment made by our current Superintendent, Kirsten Baesler, during an interview in August of 2017:
“There’s also the barrier that I don’t think we’re unique in experiencing of just culture. What is the appropriate role for a public school system to play in the development of a child? And where does the family’s role end and the public school system’s role begin?” (Emphasis Added)
It’s a fascinating — if not troubling — statement. After all, since when did the family’s role in the development of a child ever end? It shouldn’t.
Is this grant of power really necessary? I don’t believe so. Is this the kind of authority that parents want the Superintendent of Public Instruction having over their childcare providers and children? I hope not. Yet, it simply cannot be argued that an increasing amount of power has been given to the Superintendent of Public Instruction. At what point do we finally put a stop to it?
Is it unreasonable to believe that these things only move the proverbial pendulum to the point that one day they become the impetus for things like lowering the compulsory age for kindergarten or even requiring that preschool be mandatory as well? Just where are we headed with all of this?
These kids — the youngest learners among us — aren’t part of a public education system, nor should they be. These things should be left to parents, private organizations, and non-profits to manage— not DPI.
The people of North Dakota should demand that these public entities have less of a role in the lives of our children and families, not more. The House needs to kill this bill. And those who agree had better act fast, because its been placed on Monday’s calendar for a vote. It came out of the Human Services Committee earlier this week with an 8-4 Do Pass recommendation.
Please contact your legislators and ask them to vote red on HB 1104.
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