Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Common Core is Losing Support Everywhere

As some teachers have started the school year and others are about to begin, one thing is forced onto their mind: the Common Core.  If you have not heard of the Common Core yet, I encourage you to turn your computer off and go back to sleep.  There are probably a lot of other things going on in the world that would upset you.

If you are like the 81% of Americans surveyed, you probably are not a big fan of the Common Core according to a recent PDK/Gallap poll.  This recent poll shows that 60% oppose them, but for some very, very different reasons.  This was reported in Education Week.

Overall, the wide-ranging survey found, 81 percent of those polled said they had heard about the common standards, compared with 38 percent last year. However, 60 percent oppose the standards, generally because they believe the standards will limit the flexibility that teachers have to teach what they think is best. Last year's poll did not specifically ask respondents whether or not they supported the standards.  
The poll also highlighted a partisan split in opinion on the common core: 76 percent of Republicans  and 60 percent of independents said they oppose the standards. Democrats were the only category of respondents polled in which a majority said they support the standards, 53 percent in favor compared to 38 percent opposed.
So what do Republicans and Independents dislike about the Common core according to the article?
A majority of Republicans, public school parents, and independents also agreed that the common core is not challenging enough, despite the fact that many education analysts have found them to be more rigorous than most previous state standards (with the exception of Massachusetts and California). 
For many educators the problem with the Common Core is not so much the standards, but it is the way those standards are implemented.  There was this big rush to start testing with the Common Core.  The call is to continue to attach teachers evaluations to those tests, and a push by some to direct specific instruction.  There has also been a lot of misinformation about the government using this to brainwash our children.  Terry Holliday, a supporter and education leader in Kentucky, explains part of the problem:
Holliday also said the rush by states to implement requirements linked to waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act "connected the common core with a federal overreach," which didn't help. "And the rush to implement the standards has led to inadequate support for teachers, inadequate communication with our public, and led to a major pushback from our teachers who [are skeptical] of connecting the common core to teacher development," he said.
As the President of the American Federation of Teachers stated in the article that the Common Core should be guides and separated from testing.

One other thing that was reported in the poll: The biggest obstacle facing schools is lack of financial support.  
A lack of financial support was named as the top challenge facing public schools by 32 percent in response to an open-ended question, the only problem to draw a double-digit response.
Welcome back to school everyone!  Keep you eyes on the prize! 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mike Rounds Looks to Hurt America's Workers!

Mike Rounds has come out and and stood by some actual policy positions other than "South Dakota Common Sense" and lies about Obamacare.  Unfortunately, one of the positions would actually hurt many Americans and South Dakotans.  The policy is Susan Collins 40 Hours is Full Time Act.  

Rounds writes:
The increased number of South Dakotans that will work less than 40 hours, due to the ObamaCare mandate will increase.  The ObamaCare Employer Mandate, and specifically the 30 hour workweek rule, is a job killer that must be repealed before it kicks in next year.
This policy, by setting the mandate at 40 hours a week, will hurt those working over forty hours already.  As was explained in the New York Times:

But with a 40-hour threshold, the workers at risk are those who work 40 or more hours per week, or about 45 percent of the workforce. 
In other words, raising the threshold would actually place more workers at risk of having their hours reduced. The result would be substantially less employer-sponsored coverage, which in turn, could cause a large increase in federal spending on subsidized coverage for people who otherwise would be covered at work — just what the foes of health care have long claimed it would do.
Ken Jacobs points out in The Hill:
Under current law, we at the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education expect cuts in work hours to be restricted largely to people working just over 30 hours a week.  It is not economically efficient for most employers to cut employees’ work hours to avoid the penalty. Doing so for workers currently working well above 30 hours a week would result in more turnover and expense for hiring, training, supervision and unemployment Insurance. We estimate that 2.3 million workers (1.8 percent of the workforce) would be especially vulnerable to work-hour reductions. These are people who work just above 30 hours a week, earn enough to make them eligible for federal programs, and do not already have coverage through their employer. 
While this is a real problem for the workers who will be affected, the kicker is the Collins-Donnelly proposal would put millions more workers at risk.  Overall, we estimate that 6.5 million employees would be immediately vulnerable to hour reductions under their proposal, nearly three times the number under current law.  That’s because the cost of cutting hours from 40 to 39 hours a week would be negligible for the vast majority of employers and many more employees work 40 hours a week or more compared to those who work close to 30.
I am not opposed to looking at ways to tweak the Affordable Care Act.  Going with Medicare for all would take all the pressure in the world off of business about how to force workers to stay at a certain time period.  My feeling is that Mike Rounds doesn't care if people have access to healthcare, but instead cares about how businesses can line his political pockets.

Corina Robinson and Missed Opportunities

Message is everything.  That message must be focused and direct.  This is my advice for Corina Robinson after seeing the Dakotafest debates.  My advice to my speech students is to tell them what you are going to talk about, tell it to them, and then remind them what you told them.  After watching the debate between Kristi Noem and Corina Robinson, I felt that Kristi Noem left too many softballs handing in the air, waiting to get knocked out, but Robinson only made partial contact.  

One example of this is the first main question about Washington policy sustainability of South Dakota's landscape and rural towns.  Noem speaks about the Farm bill, as should be expected, and needing to watch over the USDA.  Here is the first softball.  Robinson's answer tries to point out you have to be present at all the hearings (this is good) and that the need for compromise is key to protecting everyone to avoid things like letting the Farm bill expire (also good).  Then she starts drifting off about people wanting to work hard in South Dakota and talking about teacher funding in the state.  This drift makes her look a bit confused about the real issue and distracts from Noem failure to pass the Farm Bill on time and also how the government shut down was the key reason for delay in helping ranchers West River after the horrible storm.

I would have liked to have heard hear mention the failure of the farm bill, government shut down, and Noem mentioned at least 5 times in the message.  I would have also like to have heard her drop some names. "John Boehnoer can come and raise money for Kristi, but it she can convince him to influence her part to pass a farm bill on time."  "I would not have voted for Tom Cotton's amendment to pass when Jim Peterson from Minnesota said it would be a sign of betrayal and destroy all democratic votes for the bill."  

Another example was the Highway Trust Fund.  It was good to drop her experience of tackling highway infrastructure, she missed another opportunity to put Kristi on the defensive.  I would have liked her to talk about that instead of wasting time over trying to repeal Obamacare and voting to sue the President, she would make sure that the Highway funding measure was not another stop gap action so that our bridges can be fixed and we are not the fourth worst state in the nation when it comes to structurally deficient bridges. (Susan Wismer, are you listening?)  When Kristi Noem says that the Federal Government doesn't do its due diligence in making sure that the Highway Trust Fund is adequately funded, Robinson must jump on that and remind everyone that KRISTI NOEM IS THE GOVERNMENT NOT DOING THE JOB NEEDED.

Noem's answers contradict themselves (She argues for farm bill support for farmers and then says everything should stand on its own.)  Noem left a lot of issues unanswered and avoided them in the debate.  There were a lot of strong moments for Robinson in this debate; however, she must get more aggressive and must be near flawless if she hopes to defeat Noem.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Round's May or May Not Support Voucherizing Medicare

Mike Round's mouthpiece, Dick Wadhams, is getting upset with people questioning his lies statements about Mike Round's support (or not?) to voucherize Medicare?  Some people pointed to the GOP debate that Mike attended as evidence that Rounds supports Ryan's plan.  Wadhams and Pat Powers have to run and defend their man by showing a clip from the SD GOP debate and a radio clip from the Greg Belfrage interview.  
Rounds responded that while he respected Congressman Ryan’s efforts to balance the budget, he could not support that specific plan. Neither Medicare nor the use of vouchers in Medicare were mentioned in the question from the panelist but Rounds did clearly state his opposition to more than $700 billion in cuts to Medicare that would fund Obamacare.
In the debate clip, it is unclear if Rounds supports or does not support the Ryan budget.  In the Belfrage interview, he does say that he doesn't support the Ryan plan, but only because it doesn't seem to go far enough.  In neither case, does he come out against the Ryan plan to voucherize Medicare.  It has been pointed out that Rounds doesn't really have anything to say about Medicare other than spreading a lie about Obamacare and Medicare.  

Until Rounds actually states a real position on Medicare, we have to go with John Thune's vote since Mike Rounds is willing to follow Thune's lead (unless Dick and Mike want to be clear that John Thune is wrong on Medicare).

So, we have no clear position on voucherizing Medicare from Rounds and only a lie that continues to be spread about Medicare money used to fund Obamacare.  If you don't want to believe this "leftist ally," then you can believe the KELO Land report:
"We just really don't find this one all that true," reporter Joshua Gillin said. 
PolitiFact says the claim isn't accurate because the $700 billion doesn't come from the traditional Medicare program itself.  Instead, it's a reduction in payments to insurance companies through the privately-managed Medicare plan called Medicare Advantage. 
"The idea behind that is that the Affordable Care Act is trying to reduce the amount of payments that are going to Medicare Advantage plans because they are reimbursed at a higher rate by the government than actual Medicare is," Gillin said. 
Gillin says far from losing hundreds of billions of dollars, Medicare spending will actually increase as more Baby Boomers become eligible in the years to come.  
Still waiting for apology Mr. Wadhams.

You Really Need to Meet Corinna Robinson

You may not know who Corinna Robinson, and that would be a shame.  Today, I had the opportunity to listen to her speak at the Democratic Forum at the Sioux Falls VFW.  After having a chance to have a few people speak and a few candidates running for state positions (Ann Tornberg and Elle Spawn) introduced themselves, Corinna Robinson took the floor.

I want to share a few of my perceptions of this candidate running against Kristi Noem.  She is a strong and passionate speaker.  One of the things she shared was her biography.  A lot of this I did not know.  I did know that she had a distinguished military career.  I know that she has had the opportunity to lead and be in positions of importance as a military leader and in civilian life.  I also know that she has a passion for supporting veterans and military personal.  That was about the extent to what I knew about her.  

I found out that she is a third generation South Dakotan with about 98% of her family members living here in South Dakota.  She grew up in Rapid City and learned the value of hard work.  She shared the store that at the age of 16, she worked at McDonalds so that she could afford some new clothes for the school year.  She pointed out that she grew up a God-fearing Christian that is still active in attending church.

She shared upon graduating from high school she enrolled in the military with idea of enlisting and then  going to school for a criminal justice degree.  Things changed and she made a career in the military.  It was the severe problems with Washington that drove her to run for Congress.  She became so upset when Washington could not get its act together and she had to tell people that they were being furloughed.  She gave her two weeks notice and despite her superior trying to convince her to not quit for her family, she felt driven to try and make Washington run better and serve the people of South Dakota.

It is the life experiences and her opportunity to go around the world that has shaped her drive for commitment.  When asked how she would be different than Kristi Noem, she stresses her military background.  In the military you can't be partisan, you just have to make sure that the job get done.  She would approach Congress much like she approached life in the military.  She would be vocal and support the people she was charged to protect and serve (the people of South Dakota), and she would fight in Washington for all the people, Democrats, Independents, and Republicans.  That is one of the key differences between she and Kristi Noem: leadership.  She also doesn't tolerate mediocrity

If you would like to meet Corinna Robinson, she will be at Josiah's Coffeehouse at 1:00 P.M.  You can also visit her website at  She is very personable and would love to here from you.

By the way, Elle Spawn is running for the District 12 House seat and will be having a meet and greet at Spellerberg Park on Saturday, August 16 from 3-5 P.M.  There will be watermelon!

Rounds Opposes Saving Social Security and Giving More to Seniors

Mike Round's policy spokesperson, Dick Wadhams, is starting to make Mike Rounds positions on policy a bit clearer.  One thing is clear is that Mike Rounds does not want to strengthen social security and prefers protect the well off over the health of social security.

Right now there is a cap on social security taxes at $117,000.  If you make more than $117,000, you do not pay above the $117,000.  So, if you make a million dollars, you stop paying social security once you have hit $117,000.  That means you avoid paying anything into social security for the $883,000 above the cap.  Here is how it was explained on The Hill:

Many people don’t know that any income above $117,000 per year is not taxed by Social Security (this limit on the amount of earnings subject to the tax is adjusted annually to keep up with inflation). That means that someone who makes twice the cap this year – $234,000 – pays the tax on only half of his or her wages. And those lucky enough to make at least $1.2 million per year are taxed by Social Security on less than one-tenth of their income.
Wadham's make it seem like everyone in South Dakota would be crushed by this, but the reality is that scrapping the cap would eliminate a tax break for just a small percentage.  From The Hill
While every one of these senators and representatives earn over $117,000 annually, Census Bureau data shows that only about 1 in 18 workers would pay more if the cap were scrapped, and only the top 1.4 percent (1 in 71 workers) would be affected if the tax were applied to earnings over $250,000. 
It gets even more interesting when you look at different states and slices of the population.  In the home states of Merkley, Harkin and Sanders (Oregon, Iowa, and Vermont), the top 4.2 percent, 3.5 percent and 4.0 percent of workers, respectively, would pay more if the Social Security payroll cap were phased out. 
Even fewer women workers would be affected if the cap were abolished: only about 1 in 36 (2.8 percent) of them would pay more, and the top half of one percent would be affected if the tax were applied to earnings over $250,000.  Similarly, only about 1 in 50 black or Latino workers would pay more if the cap were lifted entirely, and about 1 in 200 would be affected if earnings above $250,000 were subject to the tax.
By scrapping the cap, you would also be able to be able to give more to seniors.

That has put the cap at the center of the debate over Social Security reform. Raising or eliminating the cap on income subject to tax has been suggested often as a way to improve the program's long-term funding gap. New payroll tax revenue could close the gap by anywhere from 28 percent to 90 percent, depending on the cap's height and to what extent the new revenue is used to boost payouts to high-income households. 
Elimination of the cap also figures in a broader discussion aimed at addressing the looming retirement security crisis among middle- and lower-income households. Enhancing Social Security looks like the best solution to that problem. 
Under the "Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013" introduced by Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska), the taxable maximum would be phased out gradually by 2018. The plan would also increase annual cost-of-living adjustments and change benefit formulas to increase benefits for all seniors by about $70 monthly. Along with boosting benefits, the plan would extend the trust fund's solvency by 16 years, according to the Social Security actuaries.
 So, scrapping the cap would improve the health of social security and provide more for our seniors.  Mike Rounds wants none of that.  He and the SD GOP feel it is more important to protect their well-to-do backers.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wadham's ignores the Reality of Round's Support for Medicare Vouchers

Dick Wadham's, Mike Rounds pseudo campaign leader, tries to distract us from the fact that Mike Rounds will vote to voucherize Medicare.  Dick states,
“Mike Rounds has never suggested, much less endorsed, ‘voucherizing’ Medicare. Weiland’s sorry excuse of a record shows that he not only endorses Obamacare and the $716 billion in cuts to Medicare that comes with it, but also his desire to destroy Medicare as a senior healthcare program . . . it is clearly a matter of public record.” 
Okay, I guess that Dick missed my blog entry explaining the connection of the Ryan plan and how that would in fact voucherize.  I do agree that Rounds has not come out and endorsed anything when it comes to Medicare or the budget in general.  He only offers this as his approach to Medicare:
Mike supports Medicare for our seniors. Obamacare threatens Medicare’s solvency. Mike will defend and protect Medicare. Using Medicare cuts to offset Obamacare costs is wrong.
Here is a brief description of the Ryan plan on Medicare (one that has been supported by John Thune):
By now, most people have heard about Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to convert Medicare into a "voucher" program for citizens currently under age 55. A draft of the Republican platform at the party's national convention in Tampa, Fla., recommends adopting some form of the Wisconsin lawmaker's proposals, and Ryan mentioned it again in his Wednesday night speech at the event.  
Under Ryan's plan, people who are now age 55 and older would continue to buy traditional Medicare insurance. Those who didn't meet the age threshold would be given "premium support" from the government when they attain the retirement eligibility age. They would then be free to buy their own insurance coverage from for-profit insurance companies. They would pay any difference between the voucher amount and premiums charged by insurance companies out of their own pocket.
I would encourage Mr. Wadhams to read a CBS report from 2012 when his lies were being debunked:
To some voters, it may sound counter-intuitive at first to think that cutting money from Medicare would improve, not weaken, its finances. But, again, this is a reduction in the future growth of Medicare spending over 10 years. And spending less is a good thing for Medicare’s finances — as it is for most people’s. 
For instance, let’s say someone has a dedicated coffee budget but decides to drop a daily latte habit and instead buy regular coffee. That person’s coffee budget took a big cut in spending, enabling the budget to last longer. Instead of one month of lattes, this java fan can have two months of coffee. 
The biggest savings from the Affordable Care Act come from reductions in the future growth of payments to hospitals — about $415 billion over 10 years. That’s Medicare Part A. Income for Part A comes mainly from payroll taxes. If Medicare doesn’t need to spend that income immediately, it’s credited to Part A’s trust fund, and Medicare gets a Treasury bond that it can cash in later. Anytime Medicare needs to cash in that bond, Treasury must pay it. Even if Treasury spent the original money on something else, it must pay the bond.
So, campaign claims that imply that Obama has taken money out of Medicare, and Medicare won’t ever get it back, are simply not true. 
Once again, the people of South Dakota await your apology to Rick Weiland and every citizen in this state.