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Rudy Takala's Columns

Minnesota Republicans (and conservatives!) Score a Victory in Getting Government out of Cradles (4.5.2011)

Republicans in the legislature received an endorsement from the Star Tribune today for which they may be proud. From the opinion pages of the paper today:
For the arch-conservative faction within the GOP, bad science, mistrust of government and disapproval of the 76 percent of Minnesota mothers with small children who work outside the home [formed the basis for] their opposition to MELF [Minnesota Early Learning Foundation] ideas.
It was a long and unwieldly complaint relating back to the omnibus education bill passed by the legislature. While the bill spends far too much ($1 billion more than in the last biennium), this part of it constituted a commendable improvement in policy.
What the Democrats' proposal would have done is create a "Quality Rating System" (QRS) that is supposedly "voluntary" for early child care providers to participate in and get a rating out of.
However, as Ed Liberty Watch points out (Click here), the program is "voluntary" in the same sense that individual states must "voluntarily" set speed limits at a given level to receive federal highway funding.
More specifically, child care providers would need to have a high QRS rating in order for low-income clients to get subsidized tuition from the state of Minnesota.
That mean low-income people would only have access to what a new bureaucracy deemed appropriate.
Worse yet, an amendment offered to the legislation earlier would have extended the definition of preschool to include private providers as well as public. That means the QRS system would have slowly infested not only the public school system, but but it would also have started to take over an element of the private school system.
In any case, the QRS system is mostly dead! The one exception that gives the Star Tribune hope is as follows:
In the Senate, only a one-sentence scrap of the MELF proposal found its way into the education funding bill, and it took an amendment on the floor by Edina Republican Sen. Geoff Michel to get it there.
That scrap is enough to keep MELF's quality rating proposal alive for conference committee consideration.
But how alive, given the Republican majorities' disturbing willingness to kowtow to social conservatives' ill-informed biases, remains to be seen.
Our special thanks on this issue should go firstly to Republican Rep. and Education Finance Chair Pat Garofalo. He has an inclination to side with the Democrats, but his assistance in the end helped the Republicans to get it right.
Our special condemnation should go to Republican Sen. Geoff Michel for continuing to kowtow to the Democratic Party. For someone who would like to run for governor (or U.S. Senator) in the future, he is continuing to prove his lack of value to us on the issues that matter.
Here are the other Republicans who voted with all but one of the House Democrats:
Jim Abeler (Anoka),  Sarah Anderson (Plymouth), Connie Doepke (Orono), Jennifer Loon (Eden Prairie), Carol McFarlane (White Bear Lake), Branden Petersen (Andover), and Steve Smith (Mound)
Lastly, these are the Republicans (and one Democrat) who deserve your thanks:
Republican Reps. Mark Buesgens, Glenn Gruenhagen, Mary Franson, Steve Drazkowski, and Democrat Kerry Gauthier.

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