Reince Preibus wants to start a love affair with all those people who rejected him and his friends in 2012. That is to say that he and the Republican party want to make up with people like the African American community, Latinos, women, gays and all those other people who just said “NO” to the Republicans last election. So Reince has extended his hand. He wants to be your buddy.
But whoa! what is this. While Reince says please join us, Matt Schultz, Iowa’s Secretary of State in training, continues on his Republican approved campaign to make sure that Iowa voters have the right kind of last name. His new rules were supposed to go into effect on March 13th, but he has been so quiet about it that even the press never heard. Maybe out of respect for Reince, Mr. Shultz just decided not to say a thing. It can be a Surprise! next election. Rumor has it that his rules are aimed at those Latinos that Reince wants to cozy up to. Maybe Reince should cozy up to Secretary Schultz and let him know the Party is changing direction.
Steve King Only A 3 Seed
Boy, the competition is tough over at Dailykos in their “Republican March to Madness” tourney. King is in the teabagger division facing Matt Kibbe in the first round. Remember Kibbe is the one who took down Dick Armey in real life. Going to be tough for King. Not sure if his hate of all things not white and male can carry the day with that bunch.
If you want to vote, you will need to sign on to Kos daily @ noon to catch that day’s matches.
There is a name that makes sense for the ALEC led, slow change over from public schools to charter schools run by private companies and paid for by the public. Imagine attending Walmart Grade School or Pepsi High. As Republicans keep defunding our schools and then blame the resulting mess on the teachers we will be seeing more and more call for “charter” schools as the fix. And the first thing they will do is bust unions and the second will be to demand more money. It’s already happening, folks.
Quotes for the week:
“50 yrs ago today Dick Cheney had his 1st deferment to avoid a war in Vietnam. That he supported. Happy Anniversary…Dick.” John Fugelsang
“I did express my regret in saying that he was a numbnuts because I didn’t — I probably shouldn’t have used the word ‘numb’, ” Gohmert said. “That was probably unfair.” Louie Gohmert apologizing for calling John McCain ‘numbnuts.’
One of the strange aspects of our society is that the more highly valued an employee is, the further they are removed from the customer. Look at almost any industry and you will see that as an employee gets raises and promotions, the new responsibilities that come with the promotions take them further from the customer that actually brings the money in to the business.
And so it is with the Branstad education bill. Teachers who do an excellent job in the classroom will be given an opportunity to earn more money by leaving the classroom and becoming a “mentor teacher.” Thus we will be incentivizing our best teachers to remove themselves from the customer -your children and grandchildren.
I really have to wonder about the rationale behind such a move. If I have heard one thing over and over it is that we want our best teachers in the classroom. Not as observers or quasi-bosses but as teachers. Nearly each and every one of us can relate a story of how a good teacher inspired us or a bad teacher turned us off forever on a given subject. Seems to me that removing the best teachers from the classroom is similar to getting rid of your best sales people. Short term gains, long term slump.
Wars Can’t Stop Our Government; Republicans Can
It is quite a curiosity that our government has not been stopped by an invasion of British in the war of 1812, by a Civil War that came close to Washington, D.C. itself and a World War that was unique in its horror and reach. Even the threats of terror through the mail of public officials failed to slow down or stop our government. But once more on March 1st (next Friday) our government faces yet another in what seems to be an endless series of threats from the now ultra right wing party known as the Republicans.
Acting like a group of majorly spoiled 2 year olds, once more Republicans are holding their collective breath until they turn blue and making demands that will hurt each and every citizen in some way. Now, I am sure you and I know what should be done with a 2 year old throwing a temper tantrum – they should get their diaper changed and sent to bed. Then maybe they will learn to act in a proper manner.
Ridng Dinosaurs In Oklahoma
Wish this was a joke but it isn’t. The Oklahoma Common Education Committee pased a bill proposed by Rep. Gus Blackwell that “would forbid teachers from penalizing students who turn in papers attempting to debunk almost universally accepted scientific theories such as biological evolution and anthropogenic (human-driven) climate change.” Stated another way, students could make untestable, faith-based claims in science classes without fear of receiving a poor mark.
That brings up a series of questions which begins, “Why bother teaching biology?” and ends with “why bother sending anyone to school at all?” If proven scientific theory is open to question based on religious belief, then why not math or language? The upside is we won’t be paying taxes for education any more. Bobby Jindahl was right – they are the stupid party.
The Supreme Court has decided to hear McCutcheon V. the Federal Election Commission concerning the contribution limits to campaigns. Like its predecessor, the infamous Citizens United, it looks like McCutcheon will be the Roberts Court’s second shot at putting democracy up for sale. I expect a 5-4 decision with contribution limits going down. Once more the Roberts Court will stand in opposition to hundreds of years of decisions just as they were in Citizens United.
I simply can’t see much good this will do. The only good we can hope for is that Move To Amend has not yet proposed a constitutional amendment, so they can add this one to the one nullifying Citizens United. Buy buy democracy!
80 Years Ago on March 4th, 1933
Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated as President.The rest, as they say, is history. I am not going to compare what Obama has done to what Roosevelt accomplished. Obama has had historic opposition that Roosevelt did not have to encounter. Considering the roadblocks that Republicans in congress have thrown at Obama, he has done a pretty fair job. And thank goodness we had a Roosevelt when we needed him. I never knew what party my parents were, but I know the name Roosevelt was revered.
Once more we turn the pages over to Larry Hodgden of Tipton to discuss the strange proposals by Gov. Branstad on education legislation
Our Governor, not to be outdone by his Republican friends in D.C., has created his own “fiscal cliff” for the school districts in Iowa by refusing to set the allowable growth in school budgets until he gets his education reform package passed.
For over forty years our school aid formula has, by law, required the Iowa legislature to pass an allowable growth formula a full year before superintendents, teachers and school boards negotiate their pay structure which then allows school districts time to have their budgets completed and certified, as required by law, no later than April 15.
Already one year behind schedule and with work not even begun on education reform which could take weeks, if not months, teachers have no idea what to request and school administration has no idea what to offer in salary negotiations. If this doesn’t complicate things enough, the Governor is proposing to completely change the school aid formula, a proposal he has yet to explain and will take even longer to get passed.
In spite of the evidence that Iowa will end the fiscal year with a one billion dollar surplus, the Governor is wasting his time, and ours, by focusing on a property tax reduction which will largely benefit his wealthy corporate friends in Des Moines and elsewhere. He and the legislature should be concentrating their efforts on funding education for the approaching school year.
The Democratic Senate, with our State Senator Bob Dvorsky’s leadership, has already proposed a 4% allowable growth for schools which hardly makes up for two years of zero and two per cent increases, but would be good step toward increasing starting teacher pay, something the Governor wants. The Republican House which blocked a setting of allowable growth last year as required by law should get on board the Senate plan and end this “sad State of affairs”.
As a former political science professor at Cornell College, Congressman Dave Loebsack probably would have had no problem stepping into West High’s AP government class and leading a lecture.
Loebsack did attend the AP government course – taught by Brady Shutt – Wedneday morning, but on this occasion, he was there to learn. “I want you guys to tell me about what you’re doing,” he said.
As co-chair of the 21st Century Skills Caucus, Loebsack visited West High and two Muscatine High Schools on Wednesday. The 21st Century Skills Caucus is a bipartisan committee formed to provide a forum for educational leaders, advocates and public and private sectors to brief congress about the importance of 21st century skills – critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication – to promote college and career readiness for students.
West High was selected as an example of the incorporation of those skills and Loebsack stopped by Shutt’s course to see how those skills were being implemented.
“It was really great to see how the theory was put into practice,” he said.
Wednesday’s lesson dealt with campaign finance reform and the various ways individuals can contribute to politicians, political parties and causes. Rather than lecture about the subject, Shutt broke the class of juniors and seniors into small groups, gave them a scenario and had them present to the class how they would contribute to their party or candidate.
“You get an identity” Shutt said. “If you were this person, what would you do to get the most bang for your buck?”
One group was a college student with only $25 dollars, while other groups were a former White House advisor or a highly paid celebrity such as Oprah Winfrey or Chuck Norris.
Afterward, Loebsack noted the smaller groups promoted more participation from all of the members.
“You’re encouraged to speak more freely and more often,” he said. “It’s much easier to be in the background in a larger group.”
West High principal Jerry Arganbright, who sat in on the class, said the school is always “trying to make certain our kids are exposed to the latest and most dynamic opportunities to be successful.”
While Loebsack is currently locked in a re-election campaign against Republican challenger John Archer, the congressman said Wednesday’s visit was purely a congressional visit, not a campaign stop. Loebsack has recently introduced legislation to reauthorize No Child Left Behind and hopes the 21st century skills displayed at West High are incorporated into classrooms across the country.
“It really is about making certain we do everything we can to prepare students for the 21st century,” he said.
Burlington receives grant for downtown revitalization
The Iowa Economic Development Authority has awarded Burlington a federally-funded downtown revitalization grant for the rehabilitation of downtown buildings. Grant funds help leverage private investment and improve physical conditions, while bringing new businesses and job creation on Iowa’s Main Streets.
Grants are awarded based on the potential impact of the project, a comprehensive downtown revitalization strategy, commitment of local resources, and assurance that revitalization will continue following project completion. More information here.
Nobody’s giving up on cutting property taxes
Cutting property taxes is long overdue here in Iowa, and it would be a great way to create local jobs.
Senate Democrats have taken the advice of Iowans, community leaders and business leaders from across the state in putting together a plan for cutting commercial property taxes.
The Legislature does its best work when we avoid divisive issues and work together on the top priorities of Iowans. Iowans want property tax relief. That’s why I’m frustrated and disappointed that the House, Senate and Governor let the opportunity to pass permanent property tax reform slip through our fingers this year.
In 2011, the Iowa Senate voted 46-4 for $200 million annually in commercial property tax relief. Four out of five commercial property tax payers would have received a 40 percent tax cut under the Senate’s bipartisan plan—a plan that would not shift any additional tax burden to homeowners. Unfortunately, our proposal was not taken up in the Iowa House.
During the 2012 session, we developed a bigger, bolder plan that would have cut commercial property taxes by more than $350 million. In the end, Senate File 2344 got caught up in election-year politics. It didn’t garner one Republican vote, despite including suggestions from Governor Branstad and Republican lawmakers.
This was a missed opportunity. It would have dramatically cut property taxes for almost every business and also would have cut taxes for working families.
I will continue to push for a commercial property tax cut for every Iowa business—one that helps our small businesses the most, without hurting local schools and services. I know we can get the job done.
Opportunities for Iowans to help advance student achievement
There are two new opportunities for Iowans interested in boosting student achievement and improving local schools.
First, the state is seeking members to serve on the advisory boards for six newly established regional STEM network hubs. The board members and hubs will work locally to boost student achievement in science, technology, engineering and math education, while promoting economic growth in these areas. The regional advisory boards are part of the Education Budget (Senate File 2321) that I helped approve this year.
Iowans from a variety of backgrounds are encouraged to apply for the regional advisory board positions. Whether you work in education, workforce development or business—even if you’re a student—your experience can make a difference and help create world-class schools for all Iowans.
Applications are due June 22. For more information, go to www.governor.iowa.gov/news and click on “Branstad, Reynolds, Allen announce Governor’s STEM Regional Advisory Boards.”
Second, an Iowa Teacher and Principal Leadership Symposium will take place on August 3 in Des Moines. In an effort to improve student achievement statewide, the event will focus on new ideas for educational leadership and how they can be used to improve our local schools so that students get the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century economy.
All Iowans—educators, parents, students and community leaders—are encouraged to participate. Your input will be helpful as the Legislature continues to look at ways to improve student achievement during the 2013 session and beyond.
For more information on the symposium or to register, go to http://educationleadership.iowa.gov.
Reports look at local jobs and economy
What opportunities and challenges do we face in growing our economy and creating more good jobs? A new set of reports from Iowa Workforce Development helps to answer that question, providing a valuable tool as we work to improve job-training opportunities, boost our local economy and create more high-quality jobs.
The Workforce and Economic Development Regional Status Reports look at demographics, infrastructure, employment, labor force, local industries, education, government and more. Check them out—and see how we’re doing here in our area and how we can improve .
Nominate an environmentally friendly farmer
Do you know a farmer who has been a leader in environmental stewardship on their farm, using a variety of techniques and best management practices that improve water quality and soil? Consider nominating them for the new Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award. This award seeks to recognize farmers for their responsible choices and encourage others to build on their successes.
Nominations are open until June 30, and award recipients will be recognized at this year’s Iowa State Fair. Nomination forms are available here.
Connect with the great outdoors at Iowa Trails Summit
This year’s Iowa Trails Summit will be held June 15-16 in Cedar Falls/Waterloo. The event brings together trails enthusiasts as well as state, local and regional groups who care about outdoor trail recreation in Iowa. This year, speakers will focus on re-connecting families with trails, Iowa’s vision for healthy communities and the future of trail development in Iowa.
The Iowa Trails Summit brings together a variety of trail users, including pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians, motorized users, cross-country skiers, mountain bikers and inline skaters. Outdoor recreation exhibits and opportunities will be open to the public, including kayaks and canoes, hiking, ATV rides, biking and horses. To register or learn more, go to http://iowatrailssummit.org.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
It is no surprise that the Republican Party of Iowa supports political indoctrination of school children. What is surprising is how far they go to assert their point of view. They want a free market education where public schools teach in a way consistent with their political viewpoint. That idea runs contrary to Iowa values.
Republicans demand, “…that education be returned to a purely free market system.” This begs the question of whether education is a service, like hiring an accountant, having a septic tank cleaned out or getting a car wash, and whether it is subject to market influences.
Where I live, people who graduated from a one room school house continue to live in the community and talk about their experiences. One of the challenges of Iowa’s educational system is we haven’t moved far enough out of the one room school house framework where the choice was to stay on the farm or go to school. Yet this is the free market system to which Republicans want to return. They would go backwards on education by liberating home schools from government interference with their perceived liberties, and enabling children of school age to stay home and receive their education from parents without regulation.
They want what is described as government, private, alternate and home schooling options on the table, and on a level playing field, presumably competing for students. At the same time, they seek a system of school vouchers in which public education funds would be diverted to non-government educational systems. These ideas may be popular among a subset of Republicans but they stand in stark contrast with Iowa’s long history of education, and are discriminatory against mainstream views.
Republicans have a specific political agenda for schools that asserts personal liberty over what normally is considered the primary purpose of education, preparing children to live in society. What they appear to want is a reversion to tribal society, where the family patriarchs and matriarchs dominate the culture and the main focus of family life is having children, raising them and socializing with neighbors and relatives. Iowans can and should be tolerant of minority views.
At the same time, the notion of such blatant political indoctrination in public schools, as is reflected in the Republican Party of Iowa platform, is repugnant. It reflects a misunderstanding of culture in society that only a sound education can cure. With this view toward education, Republicans demonstrate they are only concerned about “what’s in it for me” and not what is better for society.
What is the antidote? Vote Democratic on Nov. 6.
2012 successes for jobs, education, economy
The 2012 session resulted in some significant successes for Iowans.
We’ve once again balanced the state budget without raising taxes. And we’ve approved measures that will move this state forward, create jobs, grow our economy, increase student achievement and expand educational opportunity.
The Legislature did its best work when we refused to be distracted by divisive issues and instead worked together on the top priorities of Iowans. Highlights include:
** Encouraging economic growth and job creation through targeted business incentives, university-supported business development, and funding for local Workforce Development field offices that help out-of-work Iowans find jobs and local businesses find employees.
** Expanding training to ease Iowa’s skilled worker shortage by developing and enhancing programs at our community colleges, which have a tradition of working closely with local business to meet workforce needs.
** Launching education reform that reinforces the importance of early grade literacy, increases parental involvement, establishes annual teacher performance reviews, expands student assessments, and continues funding for smaller class sizes for kids learning to read.
** Making tuition more affordable at community colleges, state universities and private colleges, as well as expanding tuition grants for returning National Guard soldiers.
** Intensifying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) efforts in K12 schools, along with expanding career-oriented engineering education.
** Jumpstarting Iowa’s solar and geothermal energy industry through targeted tax credits.
** Reforming Iowa’s mental health system to ensure all Iowans receive high-quality services regardless of where they live.
I also voted to increase support for local schools and to significantly cut commercial property taxes. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough support to make these investments that so many Iowans wanted.
Thank you to all who took the time to contact me during the session. Your ideas, suggestions and priorities are reflected in many of the bills that made it to the Governor’s desk.
Education budget boosts key job creation efforts
In the last days of the 2012 session, the Legislature approved a bipartisan compromise on the state’s Education Budget that includes key job creation measures.
Most importantly, we voted to boost investment in our outstanding community colleges so that they can help Iowans fill skilled job shortages. When Iowa employers can’t find the skilled workers they need, they’re left with three choices: lose business to competitors, hire from out-of-state, or move their business out of Iowa.
Under Senate File 2321, investment in workforce training will increase to $8 million next year, a hike of 60 percent. That includes $2 million for the new GAP Tuition Fund, which helps Iowans earn certificates in welding, information technology and other in-demand jobs. And $6 million will go to the Accelerated Career Education (ACE) program.
In addition, general community college funding will increase by $13 million, and the institutions will receive an additional $5 million for maintenance.
The Education Budget also boosts funding for Iowa’s public universities by $23 million, an amount the Board of Regents has said will help prevent future tuition increases. Tuition grants for private colleges increase by 4.6 percent, and funds for the National Guard tuition program go up by 7 percent.
By keeping tuition costs down, we increase educational opportunity and make it possible for Iowa’s families to afford a great future for their kids. Ultimately, investing in education and job training helps Iowans become more productive, competitive workers, grows our economy and boosts job creation.
SF 2321 now goes to Governor Branstad for his signature.
Tackling designer drugs
The abuse of harmful “designer drugs” is on the rise in Iowa.
You may have heard of some of these substances, which are concocted in chemistry labs and sold under such names as K2 and spice (types of synthetic marijuana) and bath salts (synthetic stimulants). These drugs have caused an alarming rise in emergency room visits among those who use them.
That’s why legislators have worked with law enforcement to ban these drugs through Senate File 2343, part of a larger effort to reduce dangerous drug use in Iowa.
Bath salts are stimulants that are ingested or snorted to get high. Poison control centers report that bath salts can lead to extreme paranoia, suicidal thoughts, agitation, combative and violent behavior, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and serious injury or death.
The effects of synthetic marijuana, such as K2, spice and Black Blaze, can vary significantly from person to person. Ill effects can include paranoia, agitation, vomiting, seizures, lack of pain response and uncontrollable body movements.
SF 2343 passed the House and Senate and has gone to the Governor for his signature.
Participate in parade to honor vets, service members
A parade called “A Salute to our Veterans and Service Members” will be held on June 30 in downtown Des Moines. The parade is being coordinated by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Iowa National Guard and the Governor’s office to recognize the achievements and dedication of Iowa’s service men and women. For more information or to participate in the parade, call the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs at 1-800-838-4692.
2012 Iowa Transportation Map available
Showing roadways, rivers, rail lines and more from Larchwood in the northwest to Keokuk in the southeast, the new 2012 Iowa Transportation Map is now out—and it’s free!
Maps are available throughout the state at driver’s license stations, Department of Transportation offices and Iowa’s rest areas and welcome centers. You can also get a complete Iowa travel packet that includes the new map and 2012 Iowa Travel Guide by calling 1-800-345-IOWA or visit www.traveliowa.com.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
It looks like we are seeing the beginnings of the breakup of one of the most anti-democratic groups ever to foist itself on the American public. Slowly but surely the wheels are coming off the behind the curtain, under the rock organization known as ALEC as major corporations like Pepsi, Coke and Kraft Foods leave the group. Billing itself as the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC has done its best to stay out of the light because the work they do is best done in the dark and behind the scenes. Much like any group that pushes an anti-democratic agenda, they know that once exposed, they will not last long.
For a democracy to work, the work of those in power in a democracy must do their work in public. Such work of the governing must be done in the open so the people can examine and evaluate it. ALEC’s mode of working is in the dark with no open meetings, video or minutes to examine. Truly, they are not a part of the government, but the fact that their membership contains a large number of elected officials who formulate policy at their meetings should make it mandatory that their meetings be open and recordable.
For those who do not know, ALEC was formed nearly 40 years ago. It has operated as a group financed by major corporations to advance their agenda. As one could almost guess, one of the largest contributors to ALEC is Koch Industries, headed by David and Charles Koch. Membership is made up of representatives of these corporations and state legislative members, mostly Republican. Ostensibly , model legislation is prepared by all members. In reality, model legislation is given from the corporations to their legislative members. This legislation is then brought back to the various states and often with little modification, proposed as legislation in the legislatures. Often, such legislation has little relevance to any problems that states may be encountering. Such proposals are answers looking for problems. The voter-ID laws that are sweeping the nation are the best example of this ass-backward approach.
I believe it is well past time for some of the law enforcement wings of the states and federal government to begin some investigations. The first investigation could be concerning the violations of open meetings laws. ALEC is meeting with the expressed purpose of their members to take legislation prepared in private back to the states and propose them as legislation. Such work should be done in the light of day, with the chance for input from citizens.
Second, much of the model legislation is a gift to specific industries. The “stand your ground” bill was a gift to the gun industry. Model legislation that privatizes prisons is a gift specifically to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). And of course in states like Arizona, other legislation such as the anti-immigration laws help fill those privatized prisons.
Third, one would think that with legislators so eager to do the bidding of corporations that there may be some favors in return. The infamous backdoor of “campaign contributions” is a great way help those who help the corporations.
I am sure that once investigations started other potential questionable activities would surface. But it will be hard for any elected official or officials to stand against those who have become the major source of cash for ever more expensive campaigns. And of course should any official dare take them on, the corporations can muster the power of their money and their ownership of 95% of the American media to launch a blistering intimidation campaign. If you haven’t noticed few elected officials have yet to take on the banks for their part in crashing our economy 5 years ago.
Iowa has more than its share of elected officials who are beholden to the corporations through ALEC. The first in line is the governor. Terry Branstad was a founding member of ALEC. In a correspondence with Charles Smithson, Iowa House Secretary, it was revealed that all Republican House members are members of ALEC. Representative Tom Sands (R-87) is a member of the ALEC Tax and fiscal policy committee. Linda Upmeyer is (or was) the head of the ALEC group in Iowa.
These folks are in for the long game. They can’t trash the education system in every state in one legislative session. So slowly the education system is starved for money, slowly opening niches where a profitized education system can slowly take over. Continue to starve the public system and offer vouchers to profitized schools. Starve the public schools more and more and they become the very last place a parent would want to send their child and the profitized corporate system becomes the norm.
Other long term goals: starve the cities of revenue by capping property taxes – this is a poison pill in the Republican property tax bill currently in the legislature. Slowly libraries are closed, swimming pools and parks are closed. Corporations take over these functions for a profit. Or if there is no profit, cities lose these amenities.
And of course an underlying cause is the busting and elimination of all types of unions. Public schools go, so goes the teachers unions, as does the prison guards unions if prisons are profitized. On and on.
Sadly, ALEC is nearly half way done with their profitizing the country. Much of what was once a great country with many public facilities available to all has already been profitized with the trend picking up. Trying to turn this trend back will be an awesome task.
We need to expose ALEC at every forum, at every debate or any other appearance of a Republican legislator.
LINK to Blog for Iowa coverage of ALEC since 2011. This is a sample; type “ALEC” in the search box on the main page for more.
Hey! We are the kids in Mr. Hovick’s Improv Group at West Liberty High School. We’re going to have another show and we want you to come! Monday night April 16th at the West Liberty High School Auditorium at 7:30. Admission is free, but it would be a bargain at twice that price!
The guy that writes this blog laughed his rear off last time. Said it is great to see us kids doing this. And you have no idea what is coming next!
Back to our regular Blogger.
Geez – When those kids want to take over there is no stopping them.
And I hope that is true in the future. But one huge obstacle that is already standing in their way is the cost of college. Once much of the cost of college was underwritten by the state and federal governments. And there were excellent and good common sense reasons for doing that. An educated populace will be much more productive, will be better paid and less likely to end up in prison or on welfare. There were benefits for the individual, yes, but there were also large benefits for society as a whole.
But with the onset of the Reagan revolution, concerns about society as a whole faded. We no longer look beyond what any move, any program can do for our immediate bottom line. We now only look to see not what a proposal can do for the long haul, but what the immediate payoff is. This has been true for a long time in corporate business in America. In many cases such short-sightedness has cost American corporations dearly. One need only look at how Toyota with their long range planning was able to overtake General Motors as the world’s #1 automaker.
American students collectively now have over $1 Trillion in debt for their education. For students that plan on going into school in a couple of years they may well be looking at anywhere from $20,000 on up of debt. And it makes no difference whether the post-secondary education is at a traditional four year school or one of the newer technical schools. And of course as everyone knows, the jobs that used to be waiting for graduates are no longer there. Even areas that used to have high hiring rates now are not necessarily hired right away. Skills such as engineering now go begging for work.
The prospect of such debt may keep many kids out of school altogether or may make some change in major fields of study to get through college faster and cheaper. But the effects of the high cost of education is not borne just by the students. Society as a whole will feel the pain over the long haul.
Paying off these debts means that down payments for houses will not be saved, new cars will not be bought, families will not grow, and many many other purchases that used to drive the economy will be delayed or may never happen due to the debt taken on by students. Imagine a couple marrying with both carrying a $25,000 debt and both are trained as teachers. Starting salaries in Iowa for teachers are generally around $30,000 per year. By the time taxes and health insurance are taken out, there is little left just to live on, let alone pay off huge education debt.
Another unmentioned consequence of such debt is that fewer young people will become the entrepreneurs that will start the companies that will create the jobs that will drive the economy. Instead, with a huge debt to repay, many will opt for the security of a job that can pay off their education debt. Besides, who would loan a young entrepreneur start-up money when the guy is already deep in debt.
America is one of the few first world countries that doesn’t highly subsidize education. In many of these countries higher education is free or very low cost. Somehow once upon a time we could afford to offer higher education for free or for low cost. How did we do it? Well for one thing, the Pentagon budget wasn’t out of control. And taxes were higher for those who had benefited by our system. Sure they payed more, but the money that they payed benefited the whole society. Now corporations and the rich use that money to hire lobbyists and buy politicians who will give them even more tax breaks. The money does not circulate, and it does not create jobs.
Money that once circulated and created jobs now stops at the bank accounts of the rich and the corporation. Instead of creating jobs, the money sits in offshore accounts where it is hidden from the government. Just ask Mitt Romney. He has money that could be creating jobs sitting in the Cayman Islands, in Switzerland and other tax havens. Mitt wants to be our president so he can create even more benefits for the rich. And even more headaches for future generations.
Retiring Senate President Jack Kibbie of Emmetsburg helped create Iowa’s nationally recognized community college system. I’m working closely with him so Southeastern Community College and Eastern Iowa Community College as well as other community colleges can do even more to ease Iowa’s shortage of skilled workers. Business leaders say that would help grow Iowa’s economy. Unfortunately, deep cuts in state funding over the last 10 years have caused sharp increases in tuition and fees, according to a new report by the Iowa Fiscal Partnership.
Act now to keep Iowa’s economy growing
The recent report of rising state revenues is another sign that Iowa’s response to the national recession is working. Our economy is improving, and now’s the time to strengthen the foundations of a lasting recovery.
When the deep national recession hit, we reduced the annual state budget by hundreds of millions of dollars by reforming and downsizing state government and putting the focus on job creation and long-term growth.
We’ve made a good start, one that has put Iowa ahead of other states. Now is the time to invest in education, job creation and other opportunities to build a strong Iowa economy for the future.
Local Iowans to serve on state boards, commissions
This spring, Governor Branstad appointed many local Iowans to serve on boards and commissions. These statewide panels are responsible for advising the Governor, the Legislature and state agencies.
Most of the members are regular Iowans from all parts of the state. Their participation is what makes our democracy strong. Thank you to all who volunteer their time to build a stronger, brighter future for all Iowans, including:
** Real Estate Commission: Carol Haines, West Burlington
** Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Commission: Thomas Greene, Burlington
To learn more about Iowa’s boards and commissions and how you can serve, go to http://openup.iowa.gov/boards/.
Controversial legislation to fund a new nuclear power plant will lead to significantly higher electrical rates if legislation to build a new nuclear power plant becomes law. That was the message I and other legislators brought to a Statehouse news conference on March 20. The legislation puts consumers at risk in order to finance a project that Wall Street investors see as too risky. See video from the event at http://youtu.be/eLMcqWT0W7w.
Education reforms to prepare students for 21st century jobs
I share Governor Branstad’s education goals of raising academic standards, improving the effectiveness of educators and using innovation to enhance learning.
As we choose the best ways to reach these goals, my colleagues and I are listening to parents, teachers, students and concerned Iowans. Their suggestions are the basis of the education reforms contained in Senate File 2284. This legislation is still a work in progress but key elements include:
** Focusing on early reading and small class sizes in the younger grades so that teachers can help struggling students catch up.
** Helping students learn at their own pace to master the basics and advance more quickly in the subjects they love most.
** Expanding the core curriculum to include arts, music and technology.
** Expanding teacher-to-teacher collaboration and coaching.
** Using online learning to enhance and extend offerings in our local schools.
** Pilot projects to extend the school year and school day to measure the impact on student achievement.
** Parent liaisons for schools with struggling students.
I am passionately interested in creating world-class schools here in Iowa. I believe that by working together, we can take several steps forward this year to provide Iowa students with the best educational opportunities.
Please continue sharing your ideas as we build on what our schools do right and improve in areas where we can do better.
Community colleges can help strengthen Iowa’s economy
Iowa’s skilled worker shortage hurts our state’s economic growth. Governor Branstad and I agree on that point.
To solve the problem, we need to change direction. Specifically, we need to make it easier—not harder—for Iowa workers to improve their skills.
Since 1991, enrollment at community colleges has more than doubled to nearly 106,000. At the same time, a 21 percent drop in state investment has made getting an education more expensive for Iowa families by forcing sharp increases in tuition and fees.
We need to turn this trend around. Our community colleges already work closely with Iowa businesses to identify local and statewide needs. Our community colleges have shown they can help Iowans gain the skills to fill those job openings and earn industry-recognized certificates in welding, technology, direct care and other areas.
Given that record of success, it’s time to ask community colleges to do more. That means providing enough state funding to get the job done, without making tuition unaffordable.
As the 2012 session winds down, I’m working with my colleagues in the Legislature on the best ways to grow Iowa’s economy and create jobs. At the top of my list is more investment in Iowa’s community colleges. This is a win-win opportunity for Iowa businesses looking for employees and Iowa workers looking for jobs.
For a new report on how funding is impacting our community colleges, go to the Iowa Fiscal Partnership Web site.
Bipartisan effort restores help to unemployed Iowans
Unemployed Iowans will continue to get the help they need, thanks to an agreement by the Senate, the House and Governor Branstad to restore funding to Iowa Workforce Development and ensure all remaining field offices stay open through the end of the current fiscal year.
Senate File 517, approved with overwhelming, bipartisan support during the 2011 session, included specific funding to keep open dozens of local workforce offices. These offices help Iowans search for jobs, prepare for interviews and improve their skills, while helping businesses find the qualified employees they need.
Governor Branstad item-vetoed restrictions and conditions on appropriations in the legislation that would have kept all 55 workforce field offices open. Recently, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Governor’s veto was illegal, making all funding for the Department of Workforce Development void.
While the agreement to restore funding to Iowa Workforce Development cleans up the immediate mess created by the Governor’s illegal veto, it will be difficult to repair all the damage. For example, I am skeptical about the effectiveness of offering essential employment services through computer kiosks, and am looking at reopening some of the closed workforce offices where they are most critically needed.
Part of Iowa’s recovery from the national recession includes doing the best job possible to help unemployed Iowans find work.
April is National Donate Life Month
Iowa is consistently recognized as one of the most “donation friendly” states in the country when it comes to organ and tissue donation. Sixty-seven percent of adult Iowans are registered donors—much higher than the national average of only 33 percent.
Almost 113,000 Americans currently wait for a life-saving organ transplant. Over 630 of those people are Iowans. More than 100 people can benefit from one person’s decision to be an organ and tissue donor.
During National Donate Life Month, I encourage you to register aws an organ, tissue and eye donor by marking “yes” to donation on your driver’s license or identification card. You can also register online at www.IowaDonorRegistry.org.
Young people wanted for Youth Council
The State of Iowa Youth Advisory Council is currently taking applications for its 2012-2013 council. The council is made up of young people between the ages of 14 and 20 with an interest in government. Members will gain leadership and civic engagement experience, training and opportunities to network.
Applications received by May 1 will receive priority consideration and new council members will be selected by June 30. For more information and how to apply, visit www.icyd.iowa.gov/SIYAC.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601