Minnesota Great Start for All – Home Visits & Babies in School – Slated for Omnibus; HF 1 Rises as Possible Childcare Fraud Bill

Minnesota House of Representatives

Minnesota Great Start for All – Home Visits & Babies in School – Slated for Omnibus; HF 1 Rises as Possible Childcare Fraud Bill

By: Linda Bell

The Minnesota House Early Education Committee heard House File 1, an act titled the “Great Start for All Minnesota Children Act,” on Thursday, March 7th.  The Act includes Article 1: Prenatal Care and Utilization; Article 2: Home Visits for pregnant mothers and mothers with young children; Article 3: Great Start Fund establishes permanent treasury fund for the purpose of funding babies, birth to 5’s presence in the schools and head starts; and Article 4: Early Learning including the CCAP and Child Care Block grant.  In the end, Chair Pinto stated that HF 1 would be laid over for possible inclusion into the Omnibus Bill.

Whereas, you may have heard that the original bill was 8 pages long, the new replacement is now 25 pages.  The bill’s chief author, Rep. Kotyza-Witthuhn, spent 11 short minutes explaining walking us through Article 3 including the Great Start Fund.  Birth to 3 in the schools was moved to Article 4 under the title, Birth to 5, Family Eligibility.

The hearing was divided into three sections: bill summary, bill testimony and legislative discussion. Once Rep. Kotyza-Witthuhn concluded her overview, Chair Pinto called for the bill’s “preferred testifiers” which honestly set the mood for the rest of the session. The Early Ed committee has a decidedly different feel this year.

A number of testifiers spoke on behalf of the bill, relating positive experiences with childcare assistance, school community centers and their ability to work.  Testifiers were given extended periods of time to share their personal stories and were very well received by everyone in the room.

However, the next four received strict time limits and were not well-received by the chair.  Part of the dilemma here is that the chair and bill author had purposely chosen to focus on childcare assistance for low-income individuals, and while important, did not mention the expansive funding and appropriations laid out in the original bill which was 400% of the federal income poverty level, equating to annual income of $100,400.00 for a family of 4.  Again, this program affords  daycare up into the upper-middle class.  However, the new HF 1 appropriations were removed, left blank and will not be known until later in the session.  Will appropriations stay at the same levels as the old bill at 400% of federal income poverty level, will they decrease or increase?  These next testifiers had read both bills.

First, Linda Bell questioned the Great Start Fund in light of our present childcare fraud.  The fund would be secured via allotments, transfers, donations, and other funding which lacked administrative specifics including the total expected appropriations to fund.  She asked who would be in charge of this fund: an agency, a mix of agencies and if the fund would be audited. She offered an amendment for transparency, “An annual audit will be conducted and report sent to the legislature.” She also, offered an amendment regarding a rather loose statement on financial reports, “An annual financial statement is required by law to be submitted to the legislature and will be made readily available to the public.” Lastly, Linda spoke about the importance of families in the lives of babies and young children as well as society as a whole and the detrimental effects HF 1 would have on the family. Linda’s testimony was cut off by Chair Pinto at that point.

Secondly, Elizabeth Bangert testified.  You may have heard of Elizabeth whose alias is the “Minnesota Citizen Lobbyist” and spends many days at the Capitol in defense of her child care business. Due to distracted committee members who were on phones, in side conversations and laughing, Elizabeth became frustrated and was moved to tears. Elizabeth addressed a number of different issues. First, she stated that the “system is rigged” and that big chain childcare centers who have records of maltreatment never lost their Parent Aware 4-star rating while home-based or small centers did. She stated, “This is a turf war.  You have people who want [state] money in the schools and people who want money in the giant chain centers. And that’s why no one cares about us in the middle.” Additionally, Elizabeth declared that the Child Care Block grant was changed in 2014 to remove exemptions for vaccines.”  [MACC has consistently stated that when parents and/or children enter into school programs that originate from federal grants, there will be strings or tentacles.  Loss of exemptions (loss of parental rights) is one right there!  How many other regulations are found in these grants but not specifically stated in the bill?]

Caleb Stromquist traveled all the way from the northern border of Minnesota (5 to 6 hours one way) to speak about educational and health freedoms and parental rights.  Caleb also testified for HF 1226, home visit portion, a few weeks ago.

Lastly, Sandi Hayner testified about the government grants regarding babies/toddlers in schools including home visits. She questioned when a difference of opinion arises, will parents be “in the driver’s seat.” Continuing she asked whose values will be respected, the parents or the governments? She spoke of a family situation relating to a child where the school team diagnosed her daughter with a permanent condition without offering much help to work through the issue.  Sandi sought help outside the system leading to a successful outcome. She mentioned the childcare fraud and encouraged the committee to wait until after the March 13th Report from the Legislative Auditor’s office before passing HF 1. Lastly, she implored the chair to make sure that acceptance of assistance monies would not equate to quasi parent-shared custody with the state. Chair Pinto tried to cut her off in the midst of testimony.

Childcare / Daycare fraud conversation was brought forth near the end of the legislative discussion and question section.  Rep Joshua Heintzeman asked a series of questions regarding daycare fraud and why certain language seemingly promoted fraud.  It’s quite technical but in the end, Article 3 and Article 2 are bringing Minnesota into conformity with federal regulations.

All in all, there is expansive funding in HF 1.  HF 1 funding is for Minnesota mothers and babies, home visits and babies in school programs and/or  massive funding that expands childcare fraud.  Likely it is both! According to whistleblower Scott Stillman, child care fraud is happening in two distinct ways.  One, daycare centers were receiving grant monies where no children were enrolled nor benefitted care, and two, individuals at high levels in Minnesota government, including the legislature, are receiving fraudulent funds for their own personal gain.  Under these circumstances, it is the opinion of MACC, that HF 1 should include no more than a “cost of living” increase until the childcare fraud situation is settled. The people of Minnesota are funding these assistance programs in good faith and we deserve the truth!

Read the bill here:  HF 1 HOOO1 delete all

Watch the hearing video here.

Home Visit Hearing Testimony 2.21.2019: Parent Consent on Data Input; Physician Predictive Diagnosis

social-worker-visiting-family-with-young-baby-1

Good morning, Chair Pinto and Committee Members,

My name is Linda Bell and I represent Minnesota Advocates & Champions for Children.

Home visiting in Minnesota has played a supportive role in helping women after the birth of their child. We are thankful to the visiting nurses for their good work in this area.

First, I’d like to thank the author for removing the 3 year requirement for home visits in the case of a new mother.  The length of visits should be a parental decision and not a government-forced mandate.

Though it is evident the bill is well-intentioned, we do have some concerns.

First, our organization has been working on data bills over the last 5 years and this has become an area of expertise.  So, in this case, expectant mothers, babies and toddlers and early childhood data is also an important issue to us!

Speaking of data collection, Help Me Grow, an interagency organization, working on behalf of the Department of Health and Education is a referral service for home visits working in tandem with the public schools.  Referrals are made directly to the Dept of Education website via the Help Me Grow data portal.  Following data input, the school district picks up the information making family contact.

Here’s the catch and our concern!  Parents may have no idea that their babies, toddlers or children have been referred.  Actually, parents may not even know or ever know that a data profile was created! Help Me Grow, openly encourages professionals to refer a child to the child’s local school district if they OR the CHILD’s PARENTS are concerned about any aspect of a child’s development, based on development milestones.   The following statement does not demonstrate mutual consultation.

Help Me Grow Professionals statement

*Help Me Grow website

In the end, data may have been entered into the system on the infant or toddler without ever offering parental notification and consent.   MACC would encourage transparency at all levels of the referral system and add a short opt-in statement for consent before personal information is collected and share This catch 22 of data collection is invasive, especially when we know data creates a profile which may be used against an individual, in this case profiling an infant or toddler.

Additionally, we know that the Minnesota K-12 SLEDS (State Longitudinals) has not been audited for over 14 or 15 years.  Here, I’m speaking of the 40+ 3rd party contracts that the Dept of Education, Office of High Learning and DEED (Dept of Labor) maintains on the SLEDS.

Although this data is “sanitized” data experts will tell us that this data can be easily reconstituted.  Since the SSID#s (State Student ID#) is also used for a student’s lunch code and other log-in procedures, it wouldn’t take a “rocket scientist” to hack into a school data warehouse or even our SLEDS.  Privacy is one thing and Data Security is another.   We need both!

Another organization, the Build Initiative, which helped implement the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge. Using it’s bully pulpit ideology, BUILD, also pushes home visits as part of a wrap around system for the family.  Essentially, part of the ideology at Build is to push doctors into predictive diagnosing.

Reading this statement, one must ask if this is equity?  Or is this exploitation?

BUILD Institute 2014 Report

*Young Children and Their Families: Social Determinants/Protective Factors and Early Childhood Mental Health (ECMH).  Charles Brunner.  BUILD Initiative and Child and Family Policy Center.  August 2014.

In the end, this bill is missing vital protections considering the home visitation landscape.  Although some organizations may be asking for consent (as the Visiting Nurse organization did state) others, are not giving consent or notification.  While on the other end, doctors are being highly encouraged to predictively diagnose babies 2, 3 years from the office visit.  MACC encourages the author to include a data opt-in and other protections stemming from the referral system which kicks off home visits.  Thank you.

 

 

Minnesota Pushes Baby-Readiness for the Workforce as Means for Infant Education

Baby photo for the workforce

Minnesota Pushes Baby-Readiness for the Workforce as Means for Infant Education

By Linda Bell

Invited Testimony: On January 24, 2019, the MN House Early Education Committee invited Labor Economist, Aaron Sojourner of the Carlson School of Management, to provide his ideas on behalf of the organization, “First 1,000 Days.” Essentially, Sojourner feels strongly that prenatal home visits and school by year 1 for all children is optimal for their “brain growth” and good for our state’s “economic development.   Read on.  Listen here.  http://ww2.house.leg.state.mn.us/audio/mp3ls91/child012419.mp3

[You should know from the onset, MACC respectfully disagrees with Mr. Sojourner’s ideas.]

The vision: “If we can use investment – we can drive the success of the community.”

A mid-1980s research experiment, the “Infant Health & Development Program” was used as evidence for the necessary school child development. Personally, I wonder why more legislators didn’t question the hypothesis from this flawed “research” that studied only the top wealthiest 20% and lowest income-level 20% when results were easily predictable.  The lowest 20% made gains via school and school breakfast and lunch. Wouldn’t we have expected this outcome? And, their conclusion based on flawed research? Enroll all infants in school, free, full-day, 5 days a week.  Their brains are not developing well at home with their parents.

From his testimony, “Families have the least private resources early in their lives.  Our kids are young and have the most private responsibilities which creates a cascade of crises, but go back to that fundamental tension… It’s really hard to meet the dual responsibility of caring and earning.”  And yet, families have been raising children for centuries!!!

Caveat: MACC absolutely supports helping those who are malnourished!!! Who wouldn’t? However, this research doesn’t show ANY “evidence” to warrant moving all children into the schools from birth or 1 year.  Remember: We already have numerous programs in place to help those in need and for a variety of needs.  (Unfortunately, some of these programs are riddled with fraud/corruption!)  But for the malnourished, certainly changes in the amount of funding can be amended as needed without placing the entire population of infants into school!

Secondly, a plea was made to Minnesota businesses because infants in schools will make great investments and benefit the workforce.  Yes!  Check the hearing audio with your own ears!  This thinking comes to us from the Workforce portion of the Common Core Standards.  Indeed, many in business have been indoctrinated into believing that their charitable acts will better all of society, without of course, asking us! Did Prof. Sojourner consider the effects on the family? Does he realize that not everyone sees their children as a game piece for the workforce overlords?

From testimony: “James Heckmack, Nobel Laureate at the University of Chicago estimated an 8% return on early childhood programs.  The rate of return to private capital in the stock market is doubled rate of return. If you invest $1 for 20 years @ 8%, you make $50.00.”[per child]  Really!!!

And continuing, Human capacity develops through a “life-long process” [cradle-to-grave] and early in kids’ lives their brains are very subject to contingency based on their experiences.”

Concluding, Prof. Sojourner declares, Early experiences have life-long consequences. We should think about this time in a kid’s life as a once in a life-time investment opportunity and this shouldn’t be seen as a burden – it’s both.  We don’t get those years back!  We are the most of families when they have the least provokes this set of crises that are entirely predictable.  With information we can better decisions about and invest in our resources.

Well, here the professor is partly correct!  There are very few parents who would miss those precious early childhood experiences!  Every parent knows that loving, caring and spending time with your children do have life-long consequences and we can never get those years back.  We definitely agree there!

The First 1,000 Days’ website supports helping others by fighting malnutrition.  So why is Professor Sojourner promoting infant schooling for all children?  After looking through the website, especially at the sponsors… Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, JI Packard Foundation, Kellogg Foundation and others, I could not find any mention of infant education but did find the resource page and their call to action.

“As the world embarks on the new era of sustainable development to end poverty in all its dimensions, your leadership is urgently needed to prioritize investments in nutrition. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that our governments have adopted requires a much stronger focus on ensuring that all people—but especially women and children—have the nutrition they need to thrive.” 

 Bingo! So the First 1,000 Days is helping to implement the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, of which some are not-so-good. You can also see their alliance with UNICEF, United Nations International Children’s Fund

First 1,000 Day graphic

Founding Partners:

First 1,000 Days sponsors

And 80 other world-wide partners.  https://thousanddays.org/about/partners/

And allies:

First 1,000 Days alliesTAKE ACTION!

These grant approvals and bills are moving very fast in both Senate and House, no matter how far away their genesis originates!  IMMEDIATE: Call education committee chairs today!

“I do not want further incremental or expansive funding for 4 year Preschool, Home Visiting OR Birth to 3 Education through bill passage or acceptance of federal grants, writing new state grants. Tell them to HIT PAUSE before the legislature goes any further in funding mandates that the public is not interested in.”

Sen. Carla Nelson, Chair, Senate Ed Policy & Finance 651-296-4848

Rep. Dave Pinto, Chair, House Early Education 651-296-4199

Rep. Cheryl Youakim, Chair, House Education Policy 651-296-9889

Rep. Jim Davnie, Chair, House Education Finance 651-296-0173

All in all, those who promote a top-down structured early education, whether for Preschool 4s, or Birth to 3s or Home Visiting, all have a certain mindset that children are better off in a school setting away from their parents.  We could draw connections to any number of socialist, communist and fascist governments who gathered in all the children while pushing off parents.  Today in America, government and corporate hands are working far too closely.  Somehow our legislators are just not seeing it.  We can do better for our children and our children’s children!  It’s up to US to help them!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

TAKE ACTION: Minnesota’s Next Frontier: Birth to 3 Education “Great Start for ALL” Part 2

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TAKE ACTION: Minnesota Pushes Birth to 3 Years Education

“Great Start for ALL Minnesota Children Act” Part 2

By Linda Bell

What if I told you that government wishes to place your infants into public school or early head start at least by their first birthday or if not at birth?  What if I told you that this idea that government knows better how to love and care for your child than you do has existed for quite a while?  Those who believe that the state should raise your child are coming to do the unthinkable.  Let’s hope level heads prevail!

BILLS and GRANTS are flooding every U.S. state house to establish a birth to 3 education and prenatal to 3 home visiting system.  Be on the watch for those legislators who want to officially bring in 4 year old fully-funded or near fully-funded preschool which would complete the birth to workforce continuum. Recent invited testimony for the Minnesota House demonstrates the clear intent behind these bills.  The intent and implementation of this Act will occur through the passage of state bills based on the acceptance of federal or state grants that both sides of the aisle must pass.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgWcBV9_kLM

Remember Melissa Harris-Perry, the Tulane professor and host of the Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC? In 2013 she stated,  “We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had kind of a private notion of children: your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children.”

“So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.” 

“Once it’s everybody’s responsibility and not just the household’s, then we start making better investments,” Harris-Perry added.

 If you’ve been following, Part 1 detailed Home Visits statewide for Minnesota mothers prenatally to the child’s 3rd birthday and their expansive funding for those who are, or have, “high risk, high need, mental illness” as well as new categories, “first-time mothers, those with young families.” We are watching 2 replica bills in the House and now in the Senate regarding the “Great Start for ALL Minnesota Children Act.”

Well, you don’t really mean it!  Funding to put infants in school?  What’s in Article 3 of the “Great Start for ALL Minnesota Children?”

 Section 1: The Great Start Fund

The Great Start Fund would be established in the state treasury and will provide by law, as well as include funds “donated, allotted, transferred, or otherwise provided.”

This shows the intent that state funding for Birth to 3 education is meant to be long-term and continuous. 

Birth to 3 Appropriations

The Great State Fund. Monies appropriated from the fund to the commissioner of education for early learning scholarships to the commissioner of education to all eligible applicants. Also, utilize other funds available for the basic sliding fee child care assistance program. Additionally, the commissioner of health is to “ensure program availability to all eligible applicants” and utilizing other funds available “from state and federal sources.”

Expansive Appropriations

Subdivision 3. Birth to 3. Eligibility.

  • “The eligibility requirement for funds appropriated under Subd. 2 are as follows:
  • Parents or guardians have income equal to or less than 400% of the federal poverty level income in the current calendar year.
  • A child is from birth to 3 on September 1 of the current school year.”

Please note!  “BIRTH TO 3…”  Birth to 3.  I literally have to pinch myself as I write.  What kind of government wants babies enrolled in school?

Second, check the 2019 Federal Poverty Level (below) for recipients of the Birth to 3 funding.  Basically, if you have a family of 4 and make a little more than $100,000.00 at 400% of federal poverty level, you can receive funding.  Involvement is increased to the near-upper middle class.  “Based on Pew Research Center data for the 2017 fiscal year within the Center’s parameters, an income range of $41,000 and $132,000 is considered to be middle class.”  https://www.thestreet.com/personal-finance/what-is-middle-class-14833259

Federal povery level 2019

Generally, the remainder of Article 3 is not amended, other than older funding regarding Early Learning Scholarships for pre-kindergarten and school readiness plus and now combined to “not more than 7,160 participants for a fiscal year.”

So what’s the intent behind these bills? 

 You’ll need to read Pt 3 which I should have out later this afternoon.

TAKE ACTION!

These grant approvals and bills are moving very fast in both Senate and House!  IMMEDIATE: Call education committee chairs today!

“I do not want further incremental or expansive funding for 4-year Preschool, Home Visiting OR Birth to 3 Education through bill passage or acceptance of federal grants, writing new state grants. I am asking you to, “HIT PAUSE” before the you or the legislature goes any further in funding mandates that the public is not interested in.”

Sen. Carla Nelson, Senate Ed Policy & Finance 651-296-4848

Rep. Dave Pinto, House Early Education 651-296-4199

Rep. Cheryl Youakim, House Education 651-296-9889

Rep. Jim Davnie, House Education Finance 651-296-0173

We have some work to do here!!  Our legislators appear to sincerely believe in this utopia of their own making, not their constituents! What effect will these bills have on children, parents and families, and thus, society? Let’s make our voices known while we still have time.

 

Read Part 3 to hear testimony voices that show clear intent for these ideas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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