In Memoriam: Dr. Karen Effrem, Advocate for Education Freedom and Parental Rights

Dr. Karen Effrem, a pediatrician and education freedom advocate, died on February 12 at the age of 60 after a ten-year battle with breast cancer.
Dr. Karen Effrem

Dr. Karen Effrem, a pediatrician and education freedom advocate, died on February 12 at the age of 60 after a ten-year battle with breast cancer.

Effrem, the president of Education Liberty Watch and co-founder and executive director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, frequently offered her comments and insights to Breitbart News over the past ten years as parents throughout the nation battled against the Common Core standards in their respective states.

The hundreds of articles and insights she shared with parents and lawmakers across the country provided inspiration and sound knowledge and data to help them in their respective fights for parental control of education.

With a medical degree from Johns Hopkins University and her pediatric training from the University of Minnesota, Effrem testified before Congress and provided a multitude of writings that analyzed the damage caused by federal control of education, the need for student data privacy, and the fight to maintain parental rights.

In addition to her frequent comments to Breitbart News, Effrem was quoted by Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the British Medical Journal, National Journal, Bloomberg News, Politico, CNSNews, and other media outlets.

When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced in January 2019 an executive order to eliminate the Common Core standards in his state, Effrem immediately went to work to assist with the rewrite of the Florida math standards.

Even in January, only two weeks before her passing, Effrem emailed Breitbart News with her comments on the status of the Florida math standards.

“Much stronger and earlier use of the standard algorithm,” she wrote, “with strong emphasis on procedural fluency.”

As ill as she was, she continued, “I will be checking about Euclidian geometry and Algebra I by 8th grade.”

“Untold numbers of children and their families owe more than they’ll ever know to Karen Effrem,” Jane Robbins, attorney, writer, and frequent co-author with Effrem, told Breitbart News, adding Effrem was a tireless advocate who gave of herself to the very end of her life:

She did as much for pro-family education advocacy as anyone in this country. Not only was she brilliant and an encyclopedia of knowledge, but she was utterly tireless. Many times, when I was ready to give up on a particular issue or effort, she talked me into writing just one more piece or having just one more meeting – what do we have to lose? Three weeks before she died, she called to fill me in on the rewrite of the Florida math standards, to which she had contributed so much. She didn’t even mention her health until I asked her how she was doing.

As a pediatrician, Karen operated under the guiding principle of protecting innocent children. The threats to kids came from Common Core, and from invasion of their data privacy, and from turning them into guinea pigs for government-sponsored probing of their psyches and personalities. She would fight anything that harmed children. And because so much of what happens in government schools harms children, she never took a break.

Upon news of Effrem’s passing, United States Parents Involved in Education retweeted a tribute to her by Georgia Stop Common Core.

“We’ve lost a true leader in education activism,” the Georgia parents’ group said. “Dr. Karen Effrem was a brilliant & gentle woman, but a warrior for children.”

“Her work in the effort to #StopCommonCore in Florida has left a template for other states to follow,” the group added:

Ann Marie Banfield, an education researcher and parental rights advocate in New Hampshire, also shared with Breitbart News that Effrem was “an invaluable resource for parents who fought for parental rights and quality public schools.”

Banfield, who also fought against the Common Core standards in New Hampshire, said, “Karen’s detailed research helped all of us fight for our children.”

“Fortunately, we still have access to her research so that her legacy will continue,” she added. “We are all grateful for her commitment to parents and children across the country.”

Effrem is survived by her husband, Paul; her parents, Gerald and Ruth Swedeen; her children, Maria, Tim and Chris; her grandchildren Gerald and Joseph; her sisters Pam and Paula and their families; and many family and friends.

“Despite the enormous battles to be fought, Karen was ever optimistic,” Robbins reflected. “She knew Who was in charge – she loved the Lord and had unshakable faith. What a privilege to have worked with her.”


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