What are the Academic Outcomes and Costs Under the SEL Curriculum?

by Linda Highland

Testimony to KSBE November 14, 2023

Today CASEL, originally Consortium to Advance Social Emotional Learning, promotes, “SEL should pervade every aspect of a district’s work – from the superintendent’s office to academics and core priorities, to the classroom. Social emotional learning is the pathway towards equity, access, and social justice.” And the Fetzer Institute (who founded CASEL) says, “Now, 30 years later, we are working to add pluralistic, spiritual development into the whole child curricula.” The institute, through its partner, CASEL, is adding, “The Question Project to education by fostering “natural spirituality” in schools.” So Fetzer’s desired religion is coming into our schools by way of SEL. 

The evidence shows that foundations and think tanks push their agendas into the public schools by way of the US Department of Education and congressional funding, and by executive orders of governors pushed by their National Governors Association and other NGOs. Local districts and the state legislature are forced to pay for all of this, because it is mandated by KSDE state accreditation and the Kansas Supreme Court, where the taxpayers were on the hook to fund both sides of education spending court cases.

How much does the federal government contribute to the cost of Kansas education? Out of the total costs of over half of the state budget, only 10-12% of federal funding brings bundles of hoops for local districts to navigate.

What are the outcomes students are getting with this SEL redirection in Kansas education? Achievement scores are falling drastically, and remediation is commonplace. This is a huge financial and discouraging burden to students who were not properly educated. All the while, our schools are fully funded, spending on average $17,502 per child in 2023.  Millions and millions of those dollars are being spent on SEL class work. Kansas is the 3rd highest ranking in state aid with academic scores ranking Kansas 44th in the nation by Ed Week. Most recent assessment scores show only 10.01% of all Kansas students are proficient at the highest level in Math, 8.18% at the highest level in ELA, and 11.8% at the highest level in Science. Your reported academic scores, the ACT, and the NAEP clearly demonstrate that SEL does not improve academic achievement.

SEL Data Collection is a Violation of Student and Parental Rights

A Kansas Legislative Post Audit October 2021 report revealed breaches and major problems with school data security. And yet you continue to collect massive amounts of data through all the many learning management systems you have encouraged schools to use for implementation of SEL. At one time on your Measuring Social Emotional Learning Locally link, you were in support of 21 different systems to collect personal data from students. Are these companies keeping their own second set of data on the students?

SEL is the umbrella curriculum for all education and has ushered in an opportunity for businesses and public private partnerships to get in on the revenue source of data mining students. We hear that KSBE surveyed businesses about the kind of students they wished the schools to produce. The leading questions asked were then used to give KSBE the go ahead to change the school day to be SEL dominated. All businesses and parents really want is a well-educated student, who can be further trained to successfully prosper. Were parents, teachers, students, and legislators widely consulted about the costly curriculum change toward SEL?

Should the Attorney General give an opinion if your SEL student data collection is a violation of the 1978 federal Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA), commonly referred to as the Parental Consent Amendment, the 2014 Kansas Prohibition of Biometric Data Collection, and the 2014 Kansas Student Data Privacy Act as Amended in 2022?

Schools are not to be medical facilities where teachers, counselors, nurses, and social workers perform mental and physical therapy and record mental assessments with data on children. School personnel are not trained therapists and should not need malpractice medical insurance. Any time personal questions of a child’s attitudes, values, and beliefs are administered, the parent must be shown these materials and give written approval. Whenever secrets are kept from parents, it is a violation of their Constitutional rights, US Supreme Court rulings, and federal and Kansas statutes. Schools are academic institutions and that needs to be the focus.

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