CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa– On the first day of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training founder Al Gore gave his slide show, an updated version of the one used in the film An Inconvenient Truth. It’s the third time I’ve seen him perform in person, and there were differences in emphasis, but the big message of day one came from the panel on renewables and policy.
“Go solar,” said Warren McKenna, president of Farmers Electric Cooperative, Kalona.
In significant ways, these two words sum up what’s needed to meet world energy needs, replace fossil fuels, and move civilization toward sustainability.
In an hour, sun shining on Earth provides enough energy to meet our collective needs for a year. Whether we realize it or not, fossil fuels represent ancient sunlight stored for millennia in the ground. According to multiple speakers yesterday, most of proven reserves of fossil fuels cannot be burned if we seek to retain Earth’s livability.
What makes solar an attractive solution to the climate crisis is the cost of installation is plummeting. At the point solar electricity generation reaches grid parity it will be an easy financial argument to make that fossil fuels should stay in the ground in favor of the less expensive alternative.
Companies such as Berkshire Hathaway Energy (BHE) already like solar, wind and other renewable energy generating capacity.
BHE accounts for six percent of U.S. wind electricity generating capacity and seven percent of solar according to Warren Buffet’s 2014 letter to shareholders.
“When BHE completes certain renewables projects that are underway, the company’s renewables portfolio will have cost $15 billion,” Buffet wrote. “In addition, we have conventional projects in the works that will also cost many billions. We relish making such commitments as long as they promise reasonable returns–and, on that front, we put a large amount of trust in future regulation.”
Solar is not without it’s problems. Natural resources must be exploited to make photo-voltaic panels, and the issue of conflict minerals continuously gets pushed aside. There are manufacturing, labor and transportation issues with solar. Problems notwithstanding, the argument for solar boils down to do we want a future, or not?
What we know is dumping 110 million tons of CO2 pollution into the atmosphere every day is not sustainable, and already we are seeing the impact of global warming and related climate change damage the lives of tens of millions of people.
There are no simple answers to solving the climate crisis. As industry demonstrates the viability of renewable energy, the only thing holding us back is a lack of political will to take unavoidable steps to mitigate the causes of global warming.
The economic argument provided by declining solar electricity generating costs will be a potent weapon in the political fight.
Iowa Leaders Call on Senator Grassley to Hold a Confirmation Hearing for Judge Restrepo
DES MOINES & WATERLOO, IOWA – Iowa leaders today met with Senator Chuck Grassley’s staff in Des Moines and Waterloo to stress the need to hold a confirmation hearing for Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo, and inquired why he is not among those being considered during Wednesday’s Judiciary Committee meeting.
After meeting with Senator Grassley’s staff, a number of local leaders issued statements in advance of tomorrow’s committee hearing:
Sue Dinsdale, Executive Director, Iowa Citizen Action Network:
“When he took over the judiciary committee, Senator Grassley led us all to believe he would not play politics with our courts. Unfortunately, the Senator has let down Iowans and Americans by blocking a number of judicial appointments, including even holding a hearing for Judge Restrepo. We can’t afford to wait any longer while Senator Grassley delays, delays, and delays.”
Matt Sinovic, Executive Director, Progress Iowa:
“If justice delayed is justice denied, then Senator Grassley is responsible for denying justice to far too many across the country. Our courts should be free from political influence, and the kind of petty gamesmanship being shown by Grassley with his refusal to even hold a hearing for Judge Restrepo.”
Chris Schwartz, Director, Americans for Democratic Action Iowa:
“Senator Grassley is building a legacy of obstruction, if he doesn’t hold hearings soon his legacy as an obstructionist will be written in stone.”
Joe Henry, State Director, League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa:
“It’s time for Senator Chuck Grassley to stop holding up the appointment of Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo. This vacancy on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals is considered a judicial emergency. Yet Senator Grassley who heads the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has refused to hold a hearing on Judge Restrepo’s appointment even though the judge has the support of the senators from his home state and was unanimously appointed to his current position as a U.S. District judge by the U.S. Senate. Judge Restrepo has provided Senator Grassley with detailed responses to a long list of his questions, and has made many efforts to address any alleged concerns our senator may have. Our court system needs to be adequately staffed, and our government has an opportunity to do that with Judge Restrepo’s appointment. Senator Grassley has only let two of the seven people President Obama nominated to fill judgeships have hearings. Our senator needs to stop playing politics with our judicial branch and let these qualified individuals have their chance before the committee.”
Donna Red Wing, Executive Director, One Iowa:
“Senator Grassley would do well to remember that Judge Restrepo is a respected veteran attorney and judge. Before his appointment to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, he served as a state and federal public defender, a civil rights attorney, and a federal magistrate judge, among other accomplishments. Only two years ago, Judge Restrepo was unanimously confirmed for his seat on the District Court by both the Judiciary Committee and the full Senate. We respectfully ask that Senator Grassley immediately schedule a hearing for Judge Restrepo, and all the other judicial nominees languishing on his watch.”
It has been more than six months since President Obama nominated U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Restrepo was born in Columbia, became a citizen in 1993, and earned his degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He was confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate to his current post as a judge in the Eastern District just two years ago.
Despite past public statements of support from home state Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, Senator Grassley has refused to hold a confirmation hearing for Restrepo.
Why the holdup on Third Circuit judge nominee?
Long past time to let 3rd circuit nominee Restrepo have his hearing
The group is kicking off its North American advocacy effort for firm and substantial governmental commitments to climate action at the 21st United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP-21) to be held in Paris, France on Dec. 11., said Mario Molina, director of the 7,500-member international group of climate activists. Additional trainings are being held this year in Florida and Toronto, Canada to jump-start the effort with 1,000 newly trained climate leaders in advance of COP-21.
They are also here because of Iowa’s first in the nation political caucuses to make sure the need for climate action is heard by the field of presidential hopefuls traversing the state.
On Monday, May 4, State Senator Rob Hogg, a speaker at the training, pointed out in an email that three presidential candidates will be visiting Cedar Rapids this week. He encouraged readers to question the candidates about climate change.
“This gives us an opportunity to tell the candidates that Iowans are concerned about climate change and perhaps even ask the candidates questions about climate change,” Hogg said.
He provided a schedule and possible questions for the candidates.
Tuesday, May 5, 4:30 p.m. – Candidate Ben Carson of Florida (formerly of Maryland and Michigan) will be speaking at the Cedar Rapids Marriott, 1200 Collins Road NE, on Tuesday, May 5, at 4:30 p.m. He will be joined by Congressman Rod Blum. This is a chance to speak with Congressman Blum as well as Carson.
Thursday, May 7, 7:30 a.m. – Candidate Carly Fiorina of California is scheduled to speak Thursday, May 7, from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. at the Blue Strawberry, 118 2nd St. SE, in downtown Cedar Rapids.
Thursday, May 7, noon – Candidate Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, is scheduled to speak at the Pizza Ranch, 2450 Westdale Dr., in southwest Cedar Rapids, on Thursday, May 7, at noon.
Hogg suggested these questions for the three Republicans:
Did you agree with President Reagan’s decision to sign the Montreal Protocol on stratospheric ozone depletion, and if so, would you support similar international agreements to fight climate change?
Are you concerned about climate-related disasters like record flooding in Iowa, record drought in California, and sea level rise, and if so, what would you do about it?
Climate Reality Project founder and former Vice President Al Gore is expected to be present for the three days of training. Part of the training is related to his slideshow about the science and human impact of climate change, an updated version of the one used in the movie An Inconvenient Truth. He is also expected to meet with key political figures regarding the need for climate action while in Iowa.
About 75 of the training attendees are Iowans, so there is hope the need for climate action can be kept in front of politicians during the 2016 election cycle.
To learn more, visit ClimateRealityProject.org.
by Ralph Scharnau
This opinion piece is not about the newest bathroom tissue! Rather TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) refers to a free trade agreement among 12 countries, the United States, Canada, and Mexico as well as Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
The TPP sets rules governing more than 40 percent of the world’s economy. Negotiations on the new trade agreement have been going on in secret since 2005. Negotiations occur under the supervision of some 600 unelected and mostly corporate “trade advisors” while access to meetings and text drafts have been hidden from members of Congress, the press, and the public. What has been learned about the pact has come through leaked texts, and now the real debate has begun.
The TPP has little to do with trade. Of 29 draft chapters, only five deal with traditional trade issues. The pact fails to deliver on the Obama administration’s assurances of broad gains for consumers and the economy while protecting workers’ rights and the environment. Much of the pact focuses instead on outsized “investor rights.”
The TPP would grant foreign corporations extraordinary new powers to challenge the laws we rely on for a clean environment, essential services, and healthy communities. Foreign corporations would be empowered to bypass domestic courts and directly “sue” the U.S. government before an extrajudicial tribunal of private corporate lawyers sitting outside any domestic legal system and not accountable to any electorate, system of legal precedent, or meaningful conflict of interest rules.
These tribunals would be authorized to order the U.S. government to hand over millions of our taxpayer dollars to corporations for laws that would reduce their profits. In past free trade agreements, tribunals have ordered more than $3.6 billion in compensation to foreign investors attacking our land use rules; water, energy, and timber policies; health, safety, and environmental protections; financial stability policies, and more.
Under TPP, large pharmaceutical firms would acquire new rights and powers to increase medicine prices and limit consumers’ access to cheaper generic drugs. Any U.S. food safety rules on pesticides, labeling, or additives higher than international standards could be subject to challenge as “illegal trade barriers.” And Buy American procurement provisions could be waived.
Obama wants fast track authority to conclude negotiation of the TPP. Under fast track, Congress essentially gives up much of its constitutional duty to deliberate and debate terms of the agreement and, instead, pre-approves the pact. If Congress approves fast track authority, the pact can only be voted up or down with minimal debate and no amendments.
Supporters of TPP include businesses and business lobbying groups and many Republicans in Congress. Opposition to TPP has come from a few congressional Republicans and a broad coalition of Democrats, unions, environmental and consumer protection groups, community and faith organizations and human rights and trade alliances.
The TPP primarily protects the assets and profits of multinational corporations and financial institutions. The previous fast track trade agreements amount to wins for big corporations and Wall Street, along with their executives and major shareholders with no corresponding gains for labor. Over the past twenty years, the North American, Korean, and Chinese free trade agreements have resulted in large job losses, downward pressure on wages, and increased trade deficits. Yet, even as wages stagnate, worker productivity records impressive gains.
The TPP constitutes an international agreement that undermines domestic and international policies on food safety, medicine costs, financial regulations, and the environment. It will increase income inequality, offshore American jobs, drive down wages, explode the deficit, and hurt small businesses. Congress should reject fast track authority and reassert its exclusive Constitutional authority “to regulate commerce with foreign nations.”
We can thank Congressmen Dave Loebsack (D-2nd District) and former congressman Tom Latham (R-4th District) who co-sponsored H.R. 1147, the bill that allowed the FCC to license thousands of Low Power FM community radio stations across the country.
“You’re listening to Uptown Bill’s Radio live from Iowa City, Iowa.” Doesn’t that sound great! You can help make it happen.
Uptown Bill’s/Extend the Dream has received a license from the FCC to operate a radio station in Iowa City. In keeping with our mission, this is to be community radio for everyone — for people of all abilities.
Right now, we need to raise $15,000. That will pay for the costs of engineering and equipment to get us on the air.
Our goal is to be broadcasting by the end of the summer. Help us get on the air with a tax-deductible contribution.
Ed. note: This week’s newsletter comes from the desk of Representative Kirsten Running-Marquard and the staff for Democratic members of the Iowa House.
Although today is the “official” last day of Session, our work is not yet complete. Session is now going past its scheduled end date. There is still grid lock on setting basic funding for our k-12 schools (Supplemental School Aid or Allowable Growth). The House Republicans continue to stay at 1.25% which would result in over 20 teachers getting pink slips in the Cedar Rapids School District alone. We have to do better, and we have the funds to invest adequately in our children’s future. I will continue to fight for our kids.
It looks as though next week we will be moving the Economic Development Budget Bill; I serve as Ranking Member of this committee charged to move this important budget bill forward into law. I also serve on the Appropriations Committee, where all budget bills and legislation dealing with state expenditures move through. The last few weeks of session are busy for the Appropriations and Ways and Means Committees.
There are now only a few bills left to pass through the Iowa legislature this year. I will continue to support education, workforce development and smart economic development. These are the three priority areas I see as critical in making Iowa a great place to live, work and raise a family.
Public Schools to Lose Over 1,000 Educators Next Year
The school funding crisis carried on for another week as schools reported there will be over 1,000 fewer educators in Iowa schools next year because of the budget uncertainty. This week, because of the school funding impasse, schools were forced to hand out pink slips to over 400 educators for the upcoming school year. Schools also said they plan to leave at least another 626 positions (which are typically retirements) open next year, meaning class sizes will increase. Despite not knowing how much money they will receive from the state, Iowa school districts were forced to set their budget for the upcoming school year in mid-April.
The school funding crisis started last year when the House Republicans and Governor Branstad refused to set basic state funding for k-12 schools. Democrats have offered a 6% increase, then 4%, then 2.625% in an effort to compromise, but the majority party has rejected every offer to resolve the school funding crisis this year and continue to stay at 1.25%. Again, playing politics with our kid’s education is wrong. What 1.25% means is teachers being fired and larger class sizes negatively impact performance.
Besides raising class size with fewer teachers and raising property taxes, superintendents said they will also be cutting back other opportunities for students because of the budget uncertainty. Art, sports, wood shop, agriculture programs, consumer science, library services, STEM and Talented and Gifted are just a few of the programs being considered by school districts for elimination.
The above information was compiled through a survey of Iowa superintendents. Iowans can learn about the impact of the school funding crisis in their own school district by going to www.iowahouse.org/GOPpinkslip/.
Medical Cannabis Bill Equals Care for Sick Iowans
Iowans gathered at the State Capitol again this week to urge members of the Iowa House to support a medical cannabis bill for those suffering from debilitating diseases, like epilepsy, cancer, and multiple sclerosis. With strong support from the public, many lawmakers are considering a new bill this year to expand the applicability of that law and the availability of the oil for some of our sickest Iowans.
Senate File 484 passed the Senate and moved to the House. Senate File 484 creates a safe and secure medical cannabis program under the supervision of the Department of Public Health and uses the registration cards developed last year to assist with compliance. The bill allows persons with a debilitating medical condition such as cancer, Crohn’s, and multiple sclerosis to apply for a registration card, with verification from their doctor, to allow them to access medical cannabis. The medical cannabis must be manufactured at a licensed facility and all medical cannabis manufactured must be tested at the hygienic laboratory at the University of Iowa for content, contamination, and consistency.
Proponents of SF 484 are encouraging the House to pass the legislation to ensure that patients and their doctors can determine for themselves whether this is a fit for them. Additionally, backers of the bill feel confident that this proposal includes regulation and safeguards to ensure that the cannabis is used only by those who are suffering from a debilitating medical condition. It is very late in session but I and many others hope we can move forward.
New Exhibit Honors Iowan’s Vietnam Soldiers
This year is the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, Vietnam, which effectively ended the Vietnam War on April 30, 1975. More than 865 Iowans were killed in the conflict and five Iowa service members earned the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award for heroism. The Iowa Gold Star Military Museum, at Camp Dodge in Johnston, has a new Vietnam War interactive exhibit including a helicopter display, a utility truck, and other artifacts. A scrollable list of Iowans who were killed in the Vietnam War is available, as are television monitors featuring stories from the Vietnam War, and a full-scale diorama and mural. The Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs will host the 2015 Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day Remembrance Ceremony on Thursday, May 7, 2015. The ceremony will begin at 11:00 a.m. at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial located south of the Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines. If you are from the Linn County area and are planning to attend, please let me know.
Hard to believe that April slipped by with hardly a mention of the anniversary of the UNANIMOUS decision in Varnum v. Brien that made Iowa the 3rd (after Massachusetts and no one ever remembers who was 2nd) to allow same sex couples to be legally married. It almost stopped in Iowa. Only 32 more states have joined the band wagon since. I was reminded of this as the oral arguments were made before the SCOTUS Tuesday in the case that may make (or break) gay marriage in this country.
Perhaps my biggest disappointment since the Iowa decision is the lack of divorces that the right wing promised would happen in the wake of the decision. I would certainly have expected at the very least that those preaching the imminent death of marriage in this state would have been among the first to line up at a lawyer’s office to file for divorce because of the gay. So i call on Bob Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley and all the other loud and proud gay haters to show you believe in what you say and file for divorce before your next public humiliation of Republican candidates in July in Ames.
Lots happened last week.
1) In a SCOTUS case with a decision that seemed to counter Citizens United, the SCOTUS decided unlimited money in judicial elections was not a good idea. Who wrote the majority (5-4) decision?
2) In China, the government is cracking down on the custom of using strippers at the end of what events?
3) The Pope shocked many by calling what a major scandal?
4) Nepal was hit hard by an earthquake measuring what on the Richter scale?
5) 200 girls and 93 women were rescued from where Tuesday after over a year of captivity?
6) The US celebrates Labor Day in September, but the rest of the world celebrates what similar holiday on May 1?
7) What ally of Chris Christie and appointee to the Port Authority agreed to plead guilty to charges concerning the closure of the George Washington Bridge Thursday?
8) The fastest two minutes in sports took place yesterday. What are the fastest two minutes in sports?
9) Who is the Attorney General of Maryland that brought charges against six policemen in the death of Freddy Gray?
10) Since no education funding has passed the Iowa legislature, how many fewer educators can we expect in Iowa classrooms next fall?
11) Rep. Bill Flores has insights others don’t. To what does Mr. Flores attribute the protests in Baltimore this week?
12) 45 years ago tomorrow, the country was shocked when it heard that what had happened at Kent State University?
13) May 4, 1886. Police attack labor activists in Chicago in what has come to be called what?
14) Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has declared a state of emergency in Iowa. Why?
15) The presidential field gets more crowded. What senator announced his candidacy Thursday?
16) Regents president Bruce Rastetter is pushing hard for a university funding plan that would give the state schools money based on what?
17) An anti-gay Republican legislator in North Dakota was outed sending explicit pictures to a gay dating website. What is his very apropos name?
18) Workers’ Memorial Day was celebrated around the nation on April 28th. Why was this date chosen?
19) Police in Iowa City were called to a residence where they found what dangerous souvenir had been uncovered in a storage area?
20) So ugly it could stop a watch! What ancient body adornment was revealed this week to have the power to stop the new high tech Apple watches?
Police were called to a Seattle playground to help extract a man who was stuck in a basketball hoop. I wonder just how big the guy was who stuffed him in there.
1) CJ John Roberts
2) funerals. The strippers are used to draw large crowds for the deceased.
3) unequal pay for women
5) boko haram camps in Nigeria
6) International workers’ day or Labor day
7) David Wildstein – he is expected to give evidence that Christie was in on the bridge closure
8) The Kentucky Derby
9) Marilyn Mosby
10) up to 1,150
11) gay marriage. Make up you own connection.
12) 4 students were shot dead by National Guard troops during an anti-Vietnam war protest
13) the Haymarket Riot
14) The spreading bird flu in northwest Iowa
15) Bernie Sanders
16) number of Iowa kids enrolled at the school.
17) Randy Boehning (pronounce it as you wish)
18) on April 28th, 1971 the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) went into effect
19) a live World War I grenade
20) a tattoo that comes in contact with the watch – e.g. a tattoo on the wrist
See you next week for Mother’s Day
As the Trans Pacific Partnership steams toward a senate vote, opposition has been coming from many quarters. This opposition needs to unite with a message that is coherent. However, that has been hard to do since no one except a few negotiators have any idea what is in the treaty. What little that has been leaked gives us a hint that the treaty is not built with the American people in mind.
Here is Alan Grayson from the new website tradetreachery.com with a 9 minute discourse on the known problems with the top:
Here is a short excerpt that sums it up:
The Buffet Plan
Buffet proposed a simple plan to balance our trade. The government could issue “Import Certificates (ICs) to all U.S. exporters in an amount equal to the dollar value of their exports.” The number of import certificates determines the level of trade imbalance or balance that we allow.
Each exporter would, in turn, sell the ICs to parties–either exporters abroad or importers here–wanting to get goods into the U.S. To import $1 million of goods, for example, an importer would need ICs that were the byproduct of $1 million of exports. The inevitable result: trade balance.
The idea was sort of like cap-and-trade. Exporters would get a certificate for the value of their exports. The certificates allow anyone holding them to import that dollar amount of goods or services. So selling these certificates would mean extra cash to exporters, and would help them modernize factories, pay specialists and the other things needed to revive our in-country industries. Or the extra cash would let them sell for less, which would counter currency manipulation and other subsidies that other countries provide to their exporters.
There are a number of pluses and minuses, and Buffett goes on to list some of the negative effects of balancing trade. For one thing, prices would necessarily go up. But, of course, jobs and wage gains would return to our economy.
Editor’s note: With the coming of the first in the nation Presidential test Iowa caucuses, Bob Vander Plaats is moving into the role of a potential king maker within the Republican Party. Since the Republican caucuses in Iowa have a preponderance of so-called evangelical voters, Republican candidates increasingly will be coming to Iowa to kiss the ring of the Don of this sector of the Republican Party. The note below reminds us that while Vander Plaats and his ilk may hold sway of an active sector of the small turnout of Republicans on caucus night, his beliefs and tactics turn off most common sense Iowans. Kissing up to Vander Plaats may be a short term gain for a candidate but come with a long term negative.
By the way, the next public ring (or butt) kissing of Bob Vander Plaats will be July 18th at the CY Stephens Auditorium in Ames. Might be a good time for some gay weddings in the area.
Increasing unpopularity comes in the wake of Vander Plaats & the Family Leader praying for the physical harm of their political opponents
Des Moines, Iowa — Surveys released by Public Policy Polling (PPP) of Iowa voters show the irrelevance of Bob Vander Plaats in the Republican Presidential caucus, as well as his lack of influence with Iowa voters. Just 13% of Republican primary voters say his support will make them more likely to vote for a candidate in the caucus, while 17% say his support makes it less likely. Vander Plaats’ approval rating with all Iowa voters is only 18%, while 36% view him unfavorably, and 46% do not have an opinion.
Progress Iowa Executive Director Matt Sinovic issued the following statement in reaction to the poll results:
“The survey results released this week by PPP show the increasing irrelevance of Bob Vander Plaats and his organization, the Family Leader, with Iowa voters. After years of working to insert their influence in political races from Presidential caucuses to local ballot initiatives, it seems that Vander Plaats’ 15 minutes of fame is up. More Republicans say they are less likely to vote for a candidate than vote for a candidate based on Vander Plaats’ endorsement, many Iowans have never heard of him, and those who have do not have a favorable impression.”
“While Bob Vander Plaats loses relevance in Iowa politics, he and the Family Leader appear to be losing their grip on reality as well. Within the last few months, Vander Plaats and the Family Leader have prayed for the physical harm of their political opponents. The organization posted a prayer online suggesting that the organizers of the Governors conference on LGBTQ youth ‘be drowned in the depth of the sea.’ And Tamara Scott, a lobbyist for the Family Leader, prayed for someone to be struck down by lightning because they offered a non-Christian prayer at the Iowa Statehouse.”
“The hateful rhetoric and policy positions put forward by Vander Plaats and the Family Leader have no place in our political discourse. And they absolutely do not represent Iowa values. The survey results released this week prove that Iowans have had enough of Bob Vander Plaats’ divisive brand of politics.”
From the PPP survey of Republican primary voters, conducted from April 23-26:
If a candidate for President was endorsed by Bob Vander Plaats, would that make you more or less likely to vote for them, or would it not make a difference?
More likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Bob Vander Plaats: 13%
Less likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Bob Vander Plaats: 17%
Wouldn’t make a difference: 62%
Not sure: 7%
From the PPP survey of all Iowa voters, conducted from April 23-26:
Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Bob Vander Plaats?
Not sure: 46%
Progress Iowa is a multi-issue progressive advocacy organization with a network of more than 60,000 progressives. Year-round, Progress Iowa advocates for a stronger middle class, first-class public education, and fairness for all Iowans under the law.
Public Policy Polling: Iowa Survey Results, Republican Primary Voters (Question 23)
Public Policy Polling: Iowa Survey Results, All Iowa Voters (Question 29)
The Family Leader: Unprecedented spiritual challenge hits Iowa
Right Wing Watch: Bob Vander Plaats warns of divine retribution for Wiccan prayer in Iowa state capitol
The Family Leader: Governors conference on LGBTQ youth not what you think (includes prayer for conference planners to ‘be drowned in the depth of the sea’)
Cedar Rapids Gazette: And how will they know us?
Once again Iowa’s legislature becomes the laughing stock of Iowa through its lack of action concerning Iowa schools at all levels. Iowa was once the gold standard for schools in this country and stood well across the world. Thanks to some real as backward leadership we sink every year.
While we give the collective blame to that group “legislature,” the truth is we should be much more specific and narrow it down to “Republicans in the legislature and Governor Branstad.” Led by tea baggers, Republicans these days have just a couple of criteria – cutting taxes for their cronies and then funneling what tax money they do get to those same cronies in sweetheart deals.
We can see both of these in action this year in Iowa’s government. We see Terry Branstad acting as if he is a one man wrecking ball in taking our tax money and handing it to some private for profit company to run Iowa’s portion of the Medicaid program. This will no doubt result in huge profits for that company and a loss of services for those in the Medicaid system through denials and new processes. It is good to be a friend of Terry’s.
But the most cynical is the way Republicans in the legislature have refused to even discuss school budgets, let alone do any serious negotiations. They claim that they are offering a substantial rise in school funding, but in reality theirs is a cynical game that has been played out in states across the nation. As usual Iowa’s Republican party is a party of followers whose last major accomplishment was to do what they could to maintain as much Prohibition in the state even after it was repealed nationally.
The process for wrecking local school systems has an established recipe that various legislatures have followed. It goes like this:
1) cut taxes especially for corporations claiming this will entice businesses to move to your state -(hint: it doesn’t)
2) cut services, especially education which is usually the states largest single expenditure.
3) Schools can not maintain previous standards or meet new more stringent standards due to lack of resources.
4) Schools and teachers (as lazy government employees) are vilified for the perceived failures.
5) the fire of perceived failures are fanned by Republicans up and down governmental offices. Corporate media report such stories without telling the whole story.
6) A few more years of underfunding worsens the problem for school
7) Republican leaders claim for profit charter schools are the answer to the “failure.” (hint: they are worse than public schools)
8) Money is found to pay for charter schools by removing it from the public system.
9) In Iowa, new governor Kim Reynolds will oversee the dismantling of the public school system declaring it “great for Iowa, praise the Lord.”
In an editorial earlier this week, the new blog on the block the iowadailydemocrat.com hits the nail square on the head in chastising Republicans for their cynical actions:
“It’s as predictable as the start of the baseball season, but Branstad’s status-quo approach to nearly everything creates long-lasting and complex harm to everyone involved and causes Iowa to fall behind when it comes to educational excellence. And experts across the ideological spectrum tell us educational excellence is the single biggest factor in whether a given city, state or region succeeds in the global economy.
Branstad’s accomplishments on education for the 2015 session are nonexistent. The Governor may actually be doing more harm than good.
On pre-K (or preschool) education, there’s absolutely no progress. The U.S. Department of Education released its report “A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America” two weeks back. While Iowa ends up near the middle, ranked in the second quartile of states, we’re actually losing ground since 2007 when Governor Chet Culver proposed statewide universal preschool and began providing the funds to make it happen. Branstad singled out that program by name for repeal and has done a fantastic job at hammering away at our 4-year-olds, making sure they don’t all have preschool. Now, 30 percent of our eligible 4-year-olds don’t have access to state-funded preschool. It’s worthy of shame, but the Governor is long past that point in his career.
The K-12 picture isn’t much better as the Governor and Republican legislators are stuck on a below-inflation funding level of 1.25 percent, and the Democrats seem intent on negotiating against themselves now that they’ve adjusted their ask to 2.62 percent. As usual, the two parties will wait until the end of session, far too late for most school districts trying to plan fall budgets and make hiring decisions. They’ll agree on a paltry 2 percent and all go home calling themselves heroes for doing their basic constitutional duty, and doing the barest minimum at that.
At the higher education level, though, Iowa is drowning by comparison with states that are serious about higher education. The Regents are spending more than a million dollars on two out-of-state consultants whose job is to find places to cut at the three state universities, all while attendance costs go up every year and student debt for Iowa’s public universities ranks 6th in the nation. (Did you realize the cost of books and supplies, over and above tuition, is north of $1,200 a year at our state schools?)”
In a few short years Iowa has moved from the top of the heap to the middle in a slide that has us headed down to eventually challenging Mississippi for the bottom if the trend continues. But it should be noted that other once proud states like Kansas will be fighting us for that position. But will we ever really know when for profit corporations are in charge of our educational structure and it will be nearly impossible to measure?