Monday, August 25, 2014

Vermont Tells Arne Duncan to Stick It; Should South Dakota Follow

School is starting in Lennox.  Teachers have had in-services and like all the teachers in South Dakota, the Common Core and SLOs were on the forefront.  Diane Ravitch posted the move taken by the Vermont State School Board when they adopted a resolution about the role of testing and other things in education.  A few highlights of the post include:

What standardized tests can do that teacher developed tests cannot do is give us reliable, comparative data. We can use test scores to tell whether we are doing better over time. Of particular note, standardized tests help monitor how well we serve students with different life circumstances and challenges. When used appropriately, standardized tests are a sound and objective way to evaluate student progress. 
Despite their value, there are many things tests cannot tell us. Standardized tests like the NECAP and soon, the SBAC, can tell us something about how students are doing in a limited set of narrowly defined subjects overall, as measured at a given time. However, they cannot tell us how to help students do even better. Nor can they adequately capture the strengths of all children, nor the growth that can be ascribed to individual teachers. And under high-stakes conditions, when schools feel extraordinary pressure to raise scores, even rising scores may not be a signal that students are actually learning more. At best, a standardized test is an incomplete picture of learning: without additional measures, a single test is inadequate to capture a years’ worth of learning and growth....

As a teacher, I am not opposed to testing.  I am opposed to testing that is used as a single snapshot of what is or is not important in student's education.  I am opposed to using testing to compare create a one-size-fit-all mentality.  

The statement continues:

Unfortunately, the way in which standardized tests have been used under federal law as almost the single measure of school quality has resulted in the frequent misuse of these instruments across the nation. 
Because of the risk of inappropriate uses of testing, the Vermont State Board of Education herewith adopts a series of guiding principles for the appropriate use of standardized tests to support continuous improvements of learning.
The School Board then laid out eight concepts that they wanted to focus on from testing protocol,  test development criteria, value-added scores, to test cut-off scores.

I want to leave you with the following resolved statements:

RESOLVED that the Vermont State Board of Education requests that the Secretary of Education reexamine public school accountability systems in this state, and develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which has at its center qualitative assessments, does not require extensive standardized testing, more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, decreases the role of compliance monitoring, and is used to support students and improve schools; and 
RESOLVED, that the Vermont State Board of Education calls on the United States Congress and Administration to accordingly amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently known as the “No Child Left Behind Act”) to reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality, eschew the use of student test scores in evaluating educators, and allow flexibility that reflects the unique circumstances of all states; and 
RESOLVED that the Vermont State Board of Education calls on other state and national organizations to act in concert with these goals to improve and broaden educational goals, provide adequate resources, and ensure a high quality education for all children of the state and the nation.
South Dakota GOP love to have other people take the lead on policy issues like ALEC and Minnesota, maybe they should pay attention to Vermont. 

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. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

GOP Trying to Rewrite AP History

There has been a lot of concern with the Common Core in South Dakota.  Some think of it as a version of mind control by the Obama Administration to turn our youth into drug smoking, peace-loving hippies (or something like that)!  There was a move to supplant the Common Core, to slow down the Common Core standards, push for the teaching of "personhood," and encourage the teaching of intelligent design.  Now it seems that many in the National GOP are going after the AP History tests.  Last year, the College Board made some revisions to the test and the material that goes with it as a guide to instructors.  The RNC doesn't like it.

The Republican National Commitee is calling for a fight against the College Board's new framework for Advanced Placement U.S. History, claiming that it  "deliberately distorts and/or edits out important historical events." 
The new framework "reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation's history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects," said aresolution adopted by the RNC on Friday at its summer meeting in Chicago. 
The resolution demands that the College Board delay for at least one year its plan to debut the framework in high schools this fall. It urges that a committee be convened to draft a new AP U.S. history framework that is "consistent both with the APUSH course's traditional mission, with state history standards, and with the desires of U.S. parents and other citizens for their students to learn the true history of their country." And it calls on Congress to "investigate this matter" and withhold any funding to the College Board until a suitable framework is produced.
One of the groups leading a charge against these revisions is National Association of Scholars.  This group is basically bankrolled by conservative groups.  From my basic understanding of Peter Wood's, the head of the organization, writing is that he is bothered by the non-harsh treatment of Native Americans before the founding of Jamestown.
The story embedded in APUSH is the familiar one of materialist social progress. It moves from the aboriginal situation to the “Columbian Exchange,” i.e. the account of how Europeans introduced deadly epidemics, slavery, and plantations, and extracted natural resources, while native peoples struggled to hold on.  
The real history is a lot more complicated than that. Native peoples had been engaged in perpetual warfare with one another, including conquest and genocide, for thousands of years; had developed complex long-distance trade and alliances; had absorbed Western-introductions such as horses; had built complexly different and contrasting social systems; had made their own (often highly destructive) mark on the natural world; and were culturally diverse.  To ask high school students to wade into this asks a lot. But APUSH doesn’t try. Instead, it offers the baseline for American history as a continent of thriving, autonomous, civilized, ecologically well-adapted American Indian communities suddenly confronted with the crisis of European conquest.  
The conquest was certainly real and it is a history worth knowing, but if U.S. history is to begin with native North America, we need something more tough-minded than this “ecological Indian” story. 
that it likes things like too much support for Democratic party victories like Roosevelt's New Deal:
Sometimes APUSH slips all the way over to ideological cant.  In a section on the Great Depression (Key Concept 7.2) we learn: 
Although the New Deal did not completely overcome the Depression, it left a legacy of reforms and agencies that endeavored to make society and individuals more secure, and it helped foster a long-term political realignment in which many ethnic groups, African Americans, and working-class communities identified with the Democratic Party.
This sounds like the voice of the Democratic Party itself.  It simply sets aside the numerous economists who argue that the New Deal prolonged and deepened the Depression and that its legacy of “reforms” fostered patterns of dependency and the arrogation of extra-Constitutional powers to the federal government.  
 My guess is that the guide, like the Common Core, if far from perfect.  I think a lot of the concern will depend on how people attempt to push the implementation.  I do not teach AP History and our school does not offer it.  The College Board points out that new guides are designed to be flexible:
Asked for a response to the RNC resolution, College Board spokeswoman Carly Lindauer said in an email that the new AP U.S. history framework, developed and "overwhelmingly supported by" college faculty and expert AP teachers, is "built to be flexible." 
"It allows for a focus on state priorities, as well as teacher and parent choices that best fit the needs of their individual students," she wrote. "The new course emphasizes the American founding documents and their essential role in our nation's history, and recognizes American heroism, courage, and innovation. College Board leaders continue to meet with individuals who have concerns about the redesign to listen and receive feedback."
I would love to hear from anyone that teaches AP History or History in general.  My feeling is that this will become a continued War on Whites type of cheer that will attempt to rewrite any possible wrong doing from history textbooks.

Update: The College Board has responded to the RNC by releasing a practice copy of the AP US History test to the public.  It is a PDF file, but you can see it here.  The current President of the College Board states:
"We hope that the release of this exam will address the principled confusion that the new framework produced," he wrote. "The concerns are based on a significant misunderstanding. Just like the previous framework, the new framework does not remove individuals or events that have been taught by AP teachers in prior years. Instead, it is just a framework, requiring teachers to populate it with content required by their local standards and priorities."
We will see if this is enough for the RNC. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Rounds Issues Challenge: Challenge Taken

Rounds has issued a challenge through the South Dakota GOP.  Prove that Mike Rounds supports vouchers for Medicare.  
A South Dakota Republican Party spokesman, Dick Wadhams, responded to the outrageous charge: 
“It is time for Rick Weiland to put up or shut up about this false allegation. Mike Rounds has never endorsed ‘voucherizing’ Medicare as Weiland claims in a recent tweet. It is time for President Obama’s candidate, Rick Weiland, to either provide proof for this charge or retract his falsehood.”
Okay, challenge accepted.

1. Mike Rounds won't make any real specific position on basically anything.  We can only assume that he supports the Republican's budget that has been proposed since 2012: The Paul Ryan Budget.

2. The Paul Ryan Budget calls for turning the Medicare into a voucher system.

In 2012
But the Romney-Ryan approach pretty much matches the dictionary definition of "a form or check indicating a credit against future purchases or expenditures." We think that describes the general way Ryan's plan would work. For a political discussion aimed at voters rather than policy wonks, we think Obama’s use of the term "voucher" is close enough to earn it a rating of Mostly True.
In 2013:

Ryan's proposal, unveiled Tuesday, is essentially the same as others the House Budget Committee chair has proposed in previous years. This plan formed the heart of the Republicans' entitlement reform platform during last year's election, when Ryan ran as the GOP vice presidential candidate. 
Ryan argues that the Republican Medicare proposal keeps costs under control through competition and more choices for patients. President Obama and other Democrats deride it as a voucher program that will leave seniors with higher health care costs.

In 2014:

The Medicare proposals in the 2014 budget resolution developed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) are essentially the same as those in last year’s Ryan budget.  Once again, Chairman Ryan proposes to replace Medicare’s guarantee of health coverage with a premium-support voucher and raise the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67.  Together, these changes would shift substantial costs to Medicare beneficiaries and (with the simultaneous repeal of health reform) leave many 65- and 66-year-olds without any health coverage.  
The Ryan budget would cut Medicare spending by $356 billion over the 2013 - 2023 period compared to CBPP’s current-policy baseline.  It would save $129 billion by repealing the Medicare benefit improvements in health reform (including closure of the prescription drug “donut hole”), limiting medical malpractice awards, and raising income-tested premiums.  Ryan’s budget also includes $138 billion in scheduled cuts from Medicare’s sustainable growth rate formula for physicians and $89 billion in Medicare cuts from sequestration.
3. If Rounds supports the only Medicare plan offered by the Republican party, then he supports vouchers for Medicare.

Rounds new mouthpiece repeats the Mike Rounds lie about Medicare and Obamacare:
“Poor Rick Weiland, he is already stuck supporting Obamacare which will move more than $700 billion out of Medicare to fund Obamacare but then he wants to also destroy Medicare as we know it by making it available to everyone, not just seniors. Now, he falsely charges that Mike Rounds wants to ‘voucherize’ Medicare. Put up or shut up, Mr. Weiland. Tell South Dakota just where and when Mike Rounds said he wanted to ‘voucherize’ Medicare. And, when you fail you to do that, apologize to Mike Rounds and the people of South Dakota for telling deliberate lies while you seek to destroy Medicare as we know it with your own misguided plan.” 
The thing is that this lie has been disproven time and time and time and time and time and time and (well you get the point) again. 

AARP states:
Medicare is ending. False. Obamacare is not replacing Medicare. In fact, AARP representatives say that Medicare will become stronger once the ACA is fully in effect. "Medicare's guaranteed benefits are protected in ways they hadn't been protected in the past," says Nicole Duritz, AARP's vice president for Health Education and Outreach.
We will now wait for Dick Wadhams, The SD GOP, and Mike Rounds to apologize to the citizens of South Dakota and Rick Weiland.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My Humble Advice to the SD Democratic Party

EB-5 scandal is not a winning issue.  It is not an issue that the average South Dakota family cares about.  It is an issue that deserves scrutiny.  It is an issue that should be ignored.  I am glad that many of the South Dakota papers are talking about it the lack a true investigation into the matter, but lets not allow this to become the Democrat's Benghazi.  (Although difference between Benghazi and EB-5 is that Benghazi was fully investigated.)

District candidates need to hyper-focus on the issues like the teacher shortage that was ignored by the GOP and increasing the minimum wage.  Those are two issues that each and every citizen (Democratic, Independent, and yes, even Republican) can understand.  When students return to school in a week or so and have no teacher or are struggling to get classes because the school can find or afford enough staff, they are going to want to blame someone.  

Parents in Aberdeen are going to want answers, parents in Rapid City are going to want answers,  parents in Alcester-Hudson are going to want answers.  Parents in Tripp-Delmont, Baltic, Yankton, and everywhere are going to want answers.  The SD GOP has been clear on their position about supporting education and now it has come to roost.

The other issue must be the minimum wage initiative.  The GOP is clearly opposed to this, but independents are significantly for it.  As the most recent survey showed, 62.2% of independents support  the minimum wage increase.  That is huge and if the democrats can connect themselves to the minimum wage, they can make some headway.

I am not naive.  The Democrats have a lot of work, but to make a gain, they will need to play it smart and focus beyond the small base in this state.  Education and minimum wage must be the focus, not EB-5.  

The Minimum Wage Increase Needs You in November

The other day Chuck Todd on MSNBC was analyzing some poll data about favorability of Washington.  Out of the analysis, one of the conclusions was it looks like a lot of people will be staying home.  That allows the hard-core political followers (who tend to be very polarizing) to run the show.  This is not a good thing for the average American.

Todd Epp with Northern Plains News released a poll yesterday over the minimum wage initiative. 
Over half of the minimum wage measure respondents—52.1 percent—said they supported Initiated Measure 18, which would increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $8.50 per hour, tipped worker’s wages from $2.13 per hour to $4.25 per hour, and implement an annual cost of living increase. 
Just over 28 percent (28.4 percent) said they would vote against it and 19.5 percent were unsure.
You read that right.  The minimum wage initiative is winning right now with 52.1 percent versus 28 percent.  That is good news for improving the lives of thousands of South Dakotans.  The poll also broke support for the initiative down by party.  
“Minimum wage continues to receive support from a majority of South Dakota voters,” NBP partner Paul Nielson said. “Democrats (71.2 percent support) and independents/others (62.2 percent support) are especially supportive, while only 36 percent of Republicans say they will vote for it, with 21.8 percent of Republicans “undecided”).
It is the Republican party that overwhelmingly disagree with the minimum wage.  What does that tell you?  If you are an independent that supports minimum wage increase, then you should consider voting for the Democrat running in your district.  This is one of those laws I could see the Republican legislature supported by Daugaard that would pass a law to do an end around the initiative, especially if it is close.

Beyond that, if you support a minimum wage increase, you have to come out and vote in November.  If nothing else gets you to the polls, let it be that you are making clear your support for the minimum wage increase.  If you don't then you allow a minority of voices silence yours and the majority.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Howie's Commercial Is Awesome

I will not be voting for Gordon Howie this fall for Senator, but his spoof of Rand Paul running away when King demeaned some people wanting to talk about the dream act is hilarious!  It also serves a reminder that Mike Rounds loves the EB-5 program.  He is more than willing to support programs that will give money to the elite businesses that will support him financially when he is in Pierre.

You can see the video by clicking on this link or go to Greg Belfrage's Daily Dose to see both videos.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Steve King Belittles Those That Disagree

The Washington Post shares a video featuring Steve King and how he belittles two young DREAMERS that try to engage in discussion with him about his comments about the border crises and treatment of unauthorized immigrant children that have grown up in the United States.  A few of the remarks made by King include:
* "You're very good at English. You can understand the English language so don't act like you don't." 
* In response to Andiola saying her mother brought her to the U.S. illegally as a child : "You had nothing to do with that, right?"
* "I am really sorry you come from a lawless country. I hope that you can have a happy life." 
The article also points out that while King's words are shameful, it is the nonverbal communication that goes with it.  At one point he grabs her hands because he wanted to cut off the young lady to respond.  His tone is condescending, his gestures clearly show that he has zero time for her.  Even more entertaining is that Rand Paul literally runs away from the situation. 

Lederman has a major GOP crush on Steve King.  It is a pretty good guess about how Dan Lederman thinks about racial minorities in his district.  

There Is No More Time For Excuses For Ignoring Teacher Shortage

A recent write-up from Cory Heidelberger at Madville Times points to a Facebook post showing just how desperate schools are when it comes to finding staff to teacher our students.  
Tripp-Delmont School District needs a 7-12 math teacher. The salary is negotiable and we are offering a signing bonus of $2,500. If you know anyone who knows anyone now is the time to put out the message. New grads.....retired......been at home and ready to come back to teach--doesn't matter. I just need someone who loves math and kids. If you know of anyone, please have them contact Sherry Hansen, Business Manager, or me at 605-935-6766 [Gail Swenson, Facebook post, 2014.08.02].
The Tripp-Delmont school about a 30 minute drive from Mitchell.  If you have a passion to help students and a math background, you could really help out.  School starts on August 19, and if you have ever wanted to make a real difference for children out there, then please call.

Gail Swenson, Superintendent of Tripp-Delmont writes in a comment on Madville Times:
Thanks for highlighting our situation at Tripp-Delmont; unfortunately, it is a story being repeated in schools across our state. Parents and local advocates need to be flooding their Representatives' email with their concerns about this teacher shortage crisis. The quality of education in South Dakota--and your local school--is directly related to quality instruction from effective teachers. When we add the pressures of testing, numerous preparations and other requirements to our teachers, it's not surprising that young people aren't drawn to the profession and many veteran teachers are counting their days to retirement. The Ed Professors in our SD Universities have been very sympathetic, but the few graduates we have in areas such as math, special education and music are hired quickly--and many of those grads walk across our borders for $10-$15K more in starting salary and fewer preparations in neighboring states. I know that some people get tired of listening to the issue of teacher pay. We interviewed one candidate who wanted to return to education after spending a few years in business finance. The candidate would have been a great addition to our staff and offered "real world" applications to the math curriculum. Unfortunately, I could not match the salary or benefits another business offered this candidate--even with going off our schedule and adding a hiring bonus. Salary matters. So we are two weeks from the first day of school and I'm not sleeping very well. I'm open to suggestions...
The sad thing is that the superintendent has to resort to Facebook to serve the needs of hers and our students.  I have seen a real crises coming for a while now.  There are a lot of teachers in South Dakota approaching the retirement age.  That is nothing new.  The problem is that there are not enough coming in to replace them.  What has Governor Daugaard and many in the South Dakota GOP done about it?  Bury their heads in the sand.  This year Republicans and Democrats proposed HCR 1002 to begin the process of addressing the  problem.  

You might be thinking that this problem only exists in small schools.  My school is fine, why should I care about some other school district?  They are not my children.  To quote John Stewart, "What the f*** is wrong with you?"  Secondly, every type of school district is having a tough time dealing with the shortage issue.  Soon, this will become your child's problem, your granddaughter may be without a teacher when school starts, your nephew will have no one to teach them chemistry.

What can be done?  We need to find someone willing to in Pierre to give the schools the resources and support.  That is not Governor Daugaard.  He has done so much to batter and bruise the teaching field.  There is such a lack of respect that he shows for those in the teaching profession.  You can look at all the moves against proposals done to reduce funding for education.  You can look at all the comments about how teachers have been failing students.  You can begin by getting new leadership in Pierre.

You can also speak out to the 27 Representatives and Senators that voted against HCR 1002.  Don't let them get by saying that the resolution was too vague, that they don't know where the money will come from, that they simply are not sure what to do.  That is why they were elected.  They need to make the hard choices for the sake of our students.  Below, I will include the names and district of all the legislative members that voted against the resolution.  

You can vote against any candidate that doesn't support education.  Vote against each one of the people that choose to ignore education.  If no one is running against them and if you are a registered Democrat and are able to stand up against these people unwilling to deal with a real crises facing our state, then run against them on the platform of education.  It will give you a strong base and will make a difference.

Finally, you can help out the Nighthawks of Tripp-Delmont by helping them find a teacher for the students.  It doesn't matter if the students are in Tripp-Delmont, Lennox, Sioux Falls, or Rapid City, they are all our students.  Teaching is one of the hardest but most rewarding experiences out there.  They really could use your support.

House members that voted against the resolution:
Anderson (David)- Hudson (Currently unopposed)
Bolin (Jim)- Canton (Currently unopposed)
Conzet (Kristen)- Rapid City (Opposed by Ritchie Nordstrom)
Feickert (Dennis)- Aberdeen (Currently unopposed)
Greenfield (Brock)- Clark (Running for Senate- opposed by Chuck Welke)
Haggar (Don)- Sioux Falls (Opposed by Jo Hausman and James Wrigg)
Haggar (Jenna)- Sioux Falls (Running for Senate-Opposed by Michael Schultz)
Kaiser (Don)- Aberdeen (Opposed by Burton Elliot and Patrick Hale)
Kopp (Don)- Rapid City (Not Running)
Latterell (Isaac)- Tea (Opposed by Richard Schriever)
May (Elizabeth)- Kyle (Opposed by Kevin Killer and Anna Takes the Shield)
Novstrup (David)- Aberdeen (Running for Senate- opposed by Mark Remily)
Olson (Betty)- Praire City (Running for Senate- opposed by Oren Lemeister)
Qualm (Lee)- Platte (Opposed by Julie Bartling and Carrie Ackerman-Rice)
Stalzer (Jim)- Sioux Falls (Opposed by Darryl Solberg and Jim Larson)
Steele (Manny)- Sioux Falls (Not running)
Gosch (Brian)- Rapid City (Opposed by Ritchie Nordstrom and Brett Monson, Ind.)

Senators that voted against the resolution:
Curd (Blake)- Sioux Falls (Opposed by Jim Sanden)
Ewing (Bob)- Spearfish (Running unopposed)
Heineman (Phyllis)- Sioux Falls (Opposed by Reynold Nesiba)
Holien (Reid)- Watertown (Opposed by Alanna Silvas)
Jensen (Phil)- Rapid City (Opposed by Robin Page)
Jones (Chuck)- Flandreau (Opposed by Scott Parsley)
Kirkeby (Mark)- Rapid City (Not running)
Krebs (Shantel)- Sioux Falls (Running for Secretary of State- opposed by Angela Schultz, Democratic Party; and Lori Stacey, Constitution Party)
Lederman (Dan) Dakota Dunes (Opposed by Ann Tornberg)
Maher (Ryan)- Isabel (Not running)
Monroe (Jeff)- Pierre (Opposed by Ruth Rehn)
Novstrup (Al)- Aberdeen (Running in the House, opposed by Burt Elliot and Pat Hale)
Omdahl (David)- Sioux Falls (Opposed by Tom Cool)
Otten (Ernie)- Tea (Opposed by Mel Zelmer)
Peters (Deb)- Hartford (Currently without an opponent)
Rave (Tim)- Baltic (Opposed by Bill Laird)
Vehle (Mike)- Mitchell (Currently without an opponent)
White (Jim)- Huron (Opposed by Darrell Raschke)

Monday, August 4, 2014

What SD GOP Can Learn From Campbell Brown's Mistakes on Education

On Thursday Stephan Colbert interviewed Campbell Brown, a former CNN anchor who is supporting and leading a lawsuit in New York over teacher tenure.  The basis of the lawsuit is that tenure laws are to blame for the education problems in the state.  This may sound familiar:

Daugaard described tenure as a thing of the past. 
"We are moving away from a system that relies on tenure and into a system that is based on rigorous, evidence-based evaluation," Daugaard said. 
The governor also plans another change to tenure that he didn't talk about in the State of the State speech, his senior aide Tony Venhuizen said. 
Currently, tenured teachers can be terminated for specific reasons - breach of contract, incompetency, "gross immorality," unprofessional conduct, insubordination, neglect of duty, violating school policies and "poor performance" - the last of which is left up to school districts. 
Daugaard wants to make poor performance more specific. His plan would give schools just cause to dismiss tenured teachers if their annual performance evaluations put them in the worst category - "unsatisfactory" - for two consecutive years.
 The Republican candidate who has been working to punish and demoralize teachers for the last four years follows this mistaken idea that tenure of teachers is a horrible, horrible thing.  Alyssa Hadley Dunn, a former English teacher and current assistant professor of education at Michigan State University fact checks some of the statements in a recent Washington Post article.  While this issue is focused on New York, there are many, many statements that could be applied to South Dakota's attitude under Daugaard.

One example is the idea that tenure keeps ineffective teachers in the system.  Dunn debunks this myth when she points out:

 And why is there attrition? Research shows that inequitable working conditions such as low pay, lack of resources, and an increase in bureaucracy cause teachers to leave high-needs schools. Without due process rights, it is even less likely that qualified teachers will want to work in high-needs schools with difficult conditions, because it would also mean that students’ lower test scores could jeopardize their employment with no available no recourse. 
There are many ways to draw effective teachers into high-needs schools. Disregarding teachers’ rights is not one of them.
There of course is a significant problem in South Dakota with the teacher shortage that was ignored by Daugaard and other GOP like Ernie Otten and Isaac Latterell. 

Another example is that tenure protects "bad" teachers and make it impossible to fire them.  First off, it is important to note that in South Dakota tenure simply means a continuing contract because many times school board are not able to offer contracts until late in the year.  Plus it allows means that just cause should be showed instead of cutting experienced teachers to save some cost or because a parent has a grudge against a teacher for giving his or her child a B+.  

Dunn tackles this myth as well:
Tenure has little to do with protecting “bad” teachers. As educational historian Diane D’Amico writes about the history of teacher tenure, “teacher tenure never really protected teachers and nor was it supposed to.” Should a teacher who has been found to be incompetent work with children? Of course not. That is not what Ms. Brown’s opponents are arguing. It is, despite Ms. Brown’s claims to the contrary, really about due process. Job security means that teachers are entitled to a fair trial if they are wrongfully terminated, say for standing up for students’ rights or whistleblowing about inequitable treatment of themselves and others.
South Dakota GOP need to take lessons not from Campell Brown, but instead to listen to someone that studies and is an a knowledgeable professional when it comes to education policy like Alyssa Hadley Dunn.

Friday, August 1, 2014

SD GOP and Israel vs Palestine

The events in the Middle East are tragic.  No one would disagree with that statement.  The attacks from Hamas by using rockets on Israel territory and other acts of terror to try to fight back against what is perceived as control and violence against the Palestinian people.  I do think that Israel does have the right to try and protect itself from the attacks, but Israel must also be held accountable for the actions prior to the violence and bloodshed as well as the way it responds to violence against its people.

Kristi Noem released her stance on the issue showing some regret for the loss of innocent lives in Palestine, but all blame lies on Hamas:
Over the last few weeks, I have received a number of questions and comments from South Dakotans who are very concerned about the crisis in Gaza. I am too. And every time I turn on the television and see another young victim, my heart breaks for their families. Gaza is currently governed by Hamas, a terrorist organization whose objective is to wipe Israel off the map. Hamas’s use of children and innocent civilians as human shields is detestable and illegal under international law. The vicious nature of their actions has even silenced those who are typically quick to criticize Israel.
Mike Rounds wrote a position paper on the issue and stated:
The U. S. should stand with its ally Israel as it seeks to create secure borders and fight terrorism within them. The U.S. should assist in this process by supporting Israel and working in concert with both sides, but not independently. The U.S. is not in a position to pre-set timetables nor unreasonably require that Israel deal with countries that do not recognize their conditions or have pledged the destruction of Israel or its people. 
Steve Hickey wrote in the comment section:
Every political leader needs to stand up and denounce Hamas and the suffering they are bringing on the children of Gaza. Even when Israel isn’t defending themselves militarily – which is rare- , Hamas and Hezbollah use the thousands of truckloads of supplies given by Israel and they build tunnels for terrorists instead of houses for children. 
America needs to stand really strongly against terrorists like Hamas and broadcast how they use human shields and weaponize women and children, target civilians. Israel is a New Jersey size haven of democracy in a sea of hostile terrorist-led nations that hate us too. 
Hamas is not an organization that I will support and back up, but I also have to hold Israel responsible for the choices that they make in their responses.  To only blame Hamas is ignoring the moral responsibility of Israel.  While the people can support the idea of democracy for the reason to support Israel, we have to speak out when they are wrong.  When Israel bombs a UN school, they must be shamed and held accountable.
United Nations officials accused Israel of violating international law after artillery shells slammed into a school overflowing with evacuees Wednesday, an attack that Palestinian and U.N. officials said killed at least 20 people and wounded dozens as they slept. 
It was one of the worst mass-casualty incidents of the three-week war. The building was the sixth U.N. school in the Gaza Strip to be rocked by explosions during the conflict.
It would be better to condemn all of the violence.  Both sides are wrong and until they can begin to acknowledge that fact, we will hold back support from both sides.  No more weapons for Israel.  Only food and medical support for Palestine and will work with Europe to bring down pressure on Palestine. There are no easy answers.  There are no easy positions.  There should also be no blind support for one side or the other.