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Today, thanks to a front-page story in St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I learned that State Senator Jane Cunningham, in a fit of spite, is willing to gut a program that affects 4000 preschool children. She wants to yank $11.8 million from the Missouri Preschool Project because she thinks that Kathy Thornberg of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (with the backing, incidentally, of the Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education) has “defied” the legislature and, more to the point I suspect, the rampageous Senator Cunningham herself.

What did Thornberg do to fan Cunningham’s fury? She applied for federal preschool funding that would require the use of a Quality Rating System, or QRS, which the doctrinaire Ms. Cunningham claims is tantamount to “‘social engineering’ on children,” and would force “a ‘Kathy Thornburg one-size-fits-all’ mentality on child-rearing in Missouri.”

According to Cunningham, by applying for a federal Early Learning Challenge grant, “the state Board of Education has slapped us across the face, and we have nowhere else to go but the money.” Don’t you just feel the heat from her white-hot ego? Don’t dare defy crazy Queen Jane or it’ll be to hell with the kids. And all because a federal grant requires evaluative criteria based on what more impartial observers describe as “documented best-practice standards.”

Cunningham, of course, is all for evaluating performance when the criteria reflects her own personal prejudices. Witness the teacher evaluation mandates in her anti-tenure legislative efforts if you want to talk about imposing external, one-size-fits-all criteria. Take, for instance, this year’s effort to punish teachers and hobble teacher unions, SB806:

The bill also includes numerous mandates regarding teacher evaluation systems, such as requiring at least fifty percent of evaluations to be based on student test scores and prohibiting districts and employees from designing evaluation systems within collective bargaining negotiations.  The also repeals the minimum salary law for all teachers.

So standards are okay when they’re used to enforce Cunningham’s prejudices, but professionally developed educational benchmarks are a problem?

Do you maybe think somebody has a few control issues? Maybe little Janey needs to take a time out until she learns to play well with others.

Fortunately for us all, that’s just what’s going to happen. Cunningham has been redistricted out of office and will be gone after November (although I’m sure she’ll do whatever she can to regain some kind of fiefdom, elective or otherwise, from which she can meddle in Missourians’ lives). It does, however, seem like  even some fellow GOPers in the Senate might be getting tired of her high-handed approach:

Springfield Senator Bob Dixon strongly criticized Cunningham for running the bill [SB806] through her own general laws committee instead of it going to the education committee … “To try to bypass a committee that deals specifically with educations when we’re talking about an education bill … I just think that is … not unlike the substance that is referenced in the book of Nehemiah that was placed in a special part of the city after it is expelled from the back end of a camel,” he said.