Friday, August 30, 2013

Syria Is a No Win Situation, but US Has a Responsibility to Respond

The last couple of days I have had several of my students talking about the Syria situation.  Some are thinking that we are going to have World War III, some were just curious about the whole situation.  Today on the way home, I heard Al Franken this afternoon on MPR as I head home from work who said that he felt the US had to respond.
“This cannot be allowed to stand,” he said in an interview. “Now, this again is not about another land war in the Middle East. This is about a strike that is going to either use cruise missiles or bombers, so this is not about U.S. troops on the ground.”
He was also quoted as saying, rightly, that there was no good situation in this.  I think he is right.  You can stand back and watch a leader commit mass killings without some kind of consequences.  Both GOP state representatives seem to believe that the President should call back Congress and give them an opportunity to debate the action even though they seem to support some kind of action.

 "We need to define what the objectives are and what the end game is. Americans and South Dakotans are weary of war." South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem tells us while she has heard the Obama Administration may launch an attack, she has not heard anything from the administration involving specifics. "We want to make sure that if action is taken against Syria that we know what the plan is all the way through." 
 "This deal in Syria has gotten really out of hand." South Dakota Senator John Thune tells me, it is clear something has to be done. "The use of chemical weapons is something that really elevates this."
A lot of people on both sides don't want the US involved at all in the Syrian conflict.  The left wants no involvement in US wars and an end to all conflict.  The right feels that there is no direct and tangible US interest involved, so no US resources should be put at risk (especially the lives of military personal).  

While we can try to claim the Prime Directive and say that this is Syria's war, we tried that several times before and it usually lead to more bloodshed that spilled over to others and eventually dragged in the US in a much larger conflict.  We have also been to eager to get involved in a conflict over a possible future threats that have been a huge mistake because of a lack of a clear goal and strange restraints of action.

I liken the decision that Obama must make to that of what was occurring in the Balkans in 1998.  Then President Clinton had a difficult choice to make about an air campaign to against the Serbian forces.  Then too, we had a Democratic President that seemed a bit more hawkish than Republicans, but the overall mood in Washington was a mixed mood.
Overall, the sentiment in Congress is more complicated. Several Republicans, including Gordon Smith of Oregon, John McCain of Arizona and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, as well as Democrats including Thomas Daschle of South Dakota, the minority leader, and Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, have expressed support for air strikes to end the killings.
In the end, I think a response is needed, but I also think that a good debate would be healthy if it is done quickly and both sides can focus on the issue and not try to turn it into a "oppose the President no matter what" or "do whatever the President wants no matter what."  The President must provide a clear case against the Syrian regime and should have a clear goal in mind with the action.

To do nothing and call it Syria's problem is to say that the victims of the chemical attack have no human worth.  To do nothing simply encourages the Syrian regime to 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Some Good News For Teachers

Edutopia discussed a recent poll about parents attitudes about public schools.  The results are somewhat encouraging.  71 percent of those polled gave the school of their oldest child an "A" or a "B."  There seems to be a bit of "everyone else's schools stink, but ours is pretty awesome."  
(these numbers drop substantially when it comes to the national level, perhaps because of the media's rhetoric -- a mere 18 percent give the nation's schools as a whole an "A" or a "B").
 Even after Newton and South Dakota and other states pass an arm the teachers, principal, and the custodians bills, parents feel that their child's school is safe.
In addition, even in the wake of Newtown, parents perceive their child's school as safe -- just 12 percent indicated they feared for their child's safety at school. This is a dramatic improvement from years past -- in 1998, 36 percent feared for their child's safety at school; in 1977, 25 percent did....
The public believes that providing more mental health services would be more effective in promoting school safety than hiring more security guards (59 percent to 33 percent). What they do not want: Armed teachers and administrators -- 47 percent strongly disagreed with allowing elementary school teachers and administrators to be armed, and 43 percent strongly disagreed with allowing middle/junior high and high school teachers and administrators to be armed.
 I wonder if Mitchell Christian did a poll asking parents if they thought their school was unsafe.

What warms my heart the most is that a majority of parents feel that tying teacher's evaluations to test scores is a bad idea.
In just the past year, the public's thoughts on educator accountability have changed dramatically: 58 percent now oppose requiring teacher evaluations to include student performance on standardized tests (up from 47 percent in 2012), and 63 percent oppose the release of information on how the students of individual teachers perform on standardized tests to the public (up from 48 percent in 2012).
DO YOU HEAR that South Dakota legislative members?  I hope you listen more to the people and less to ALEC.

South Dakota Wising Up to Benefits of Obamacare

John Thune tweeted some misleading facts again trying to confuse the facts that Obamacare is actually helping to begin to contain some of the costs.  It appears that South Dakota is beginning to ignore Thune that wants to go back to the days of 9% increases in healthcare. Obamacare encourages states to start using coordinated care for patients that are chronically ill.  This model is called the Health Home model and being looked and used in several states to lower costs, thanks to encouragement of ACA.
The health home model has been successful at improving preventive care in Enterprise, Ore., a town of 2,000 in the remote northeastern corner of the state. "You don't feel like you're just pushing papers around here. You really feel like you have an important part to play in improving people's health," said Dr. Elizabeth Powers, one of four physicians at Winding Waters Clinic in Enterprise, an early adopter of the health home model. 
The clinic serves all patients, including those with Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance. The federal Affordable Care Act also encourages wider adoption of the health home model.
South Dakota is now looking into this model to help contain costs.  
South Dakota's Medicaid program is launching a new effort to trim spending by using teams of doctors and other health care workers to coordinate care of chronically ill people in the program that pays medical costs for low-income people. 
Called a Health Home, a team typically will be led by a primary care doctor and will include health coaches, nutritionists and others to manage care for people with chronic health problems. The initiative, a part of the national health care overhaul, is aimed at keeping patients healthier while avoiding trips to hospital emergency rooms and other expensive care.
Dave Hewett, sums up why Thune's push to kill Obamacare is really the #brokenpromise.
Dave Hewett, president of the South Dakota Association of Health Care Organizations, said the Affordable Care Act itself has helped slow the rise in medical costs by reducing Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and other providers. Hospitals also are working to reduce errors, infections acquired in hospitals and patient readmissions. Family doctors, specialists and others are increasingly sharing information as part of an effort to keep people well instead of just treating them when they are sick, he said.
Until the GOP can offer a real alternative that will have this kind of impact on healthcare costs and improving the system of healthcare, they need to stop trying to defund it or they are simply promising a return to a broken system.

Read more here:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

John Thune #brokenpromise Of Being Honest With South Dakotans on #Obamacare

It's hot.  Really hot and it is hard to sleep, but thank goodness I am not one of the students at SDSU.  In the heat I was looking at some tweets and came across this one by Senator Thune:

 @SenJohnThune New @kaiserfamfound study shows average family premiums up 19% since #ObamaCare passed in 2010. #brokenpromise…
This peeked my curiosity since Kaiser Family Foundation continues to be strong advocates for ACA.  They know and understand the importance of access to the healthcare system for all people in the United States.  This could be a bit damning for Obamacare.  Then I decided to find a fan and air conditioner to sit in front of for a few hours hoping the night would cool things down.  before I took some time to go the report that Thune points to as evidence of the #brokenpromise.

I had to look really hard to find the statistic that Thune proudly shouts out as an example that Obamacare is a failure.  I figured it would be printed in bold, neon-flashing words the second I looked at the report.  I had to look through things like:

Section One: Cost of Health Insurance

The average annual premiums in 2013 are $5,884 for single coverage and $16,351 for family coverage.  Average premiums increased 5% for single coverage and 4% for family coverage in the last year.  Family premiums have increased 80% since 2003 and have more than doubled since 2002.  Average family premiums for workers in small firms (3-199 workers) ($15,581) are significantly lower than average family premiums for workers in larger firms (200 or more workers) ($16,715).
Holy COW!  Did you see that little fact published under the heading of the first section of the report.  Health coverage went up-- wait, that can't be right-- only 4% for family coverage.  
That is more than inflation, but much lower to other years and no where did I find the 19%.  So where did Thune get it?  Probably from a staffer that dug and dug.  On Exhibit 1.11, you can see the average cost for family coverage insurance from 1999 until 2013.  From 2010 to 2011, the cost for a family went up from $13,770 to $15,073 for a 9.4% increase.  The 2012 cost was $15,745 or an increase 4.5%.  Of course you can see the information above that shows it went up 4% (actually 3.8%).  Hmmmmm.
The ACA passed in March of 2010, but many of the actions of the law didn't occur until later.  The ban of insurers jacking up prices or kicking people off insurance just because they got sick took place in September of 2010.   At the same time, insurance companies were no longer allowed to use pre-existing conditions like acne to avoid coverage for children.  This is at the end of 2010.  What didn't take place was the cost containment feature of ACA which required insurance companies to pay 80% to 85% of premiums dollars collected on health costs and claims (Called the Medical Loss Ratio).  That happened January 2011.  With the cost containment in place, the cost increase has been under 5% a year.  Under the ACA we are seeing more coverage, more protections for the insured, and more services to improve the overall health at a slower rate of increase.
I guess John Thune wants to go back to the day he was elected a Senator from our great state.  According to the same graph Thune uses from 2004-2005 there was a 9.3%.  From 2004-2008 (when Obama was elected) cost increased by 27.4%.  From 2004-2010 (The year the law was passed) costs went up 38.4%.  I guess Mr. Thune thinks that the broken promises were to insurance companies that were able to jack up costs and spend them on administrative costs (AKA bonuses for CEOs).  Senator Thune, I don't want to go back to those days.  Please be honest with the people of South Dakota, we deserve it.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pat Powers Provides A Great Example of Irony

I was going to let this pass, but I just couldn't.  Pat Powers today is a bit thankful that a judge has ruled that bloggers are a modern form of journalists.
Secondly, the collective South Dakota Blogosphere can thank me once again for what they earned from my being a punching bag today. After leading the charge to defeat Noel Hamiel’s blog control act of 2010, they can thank me (and especially my attorney, Joel Arends) for another feather in their cap; judicial recognition by the honorable Judge Foley that at least in South Dakota “bloggers in their vein are journalists in the modern sense of the word.”
 So, how is that ironic?  Powers has spent some feuding time with Cory Heidelberger about some information that he received.  It seems that Powers would have to admit that Cory is a journalist.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Could Four Directions Have A Case To Get Costs From Gant et. al

Recently, Gant and the GOP have shown again what they think about people that challenge their world view and the Native American people.  Madville Times does a nice job of summing up the issue and the reaction that many Native Americans will have.  It seems that the GOP and the counties feel that they are the prevailing parties in the lawsuit
Sara Frankenstein, a Rapid City lawyer who represents the counties, said attempting to recover costs is common in federal lawsuits. 
"It always happens," she said. "It's not something that anybody does to be vindictive or send a message." 
The counties have declared themselves the prevailing parties because the lawsuit was dismissed. The winning side is permitted to ask for "certain allowable costs," South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said in a statement.
 My biggest problem is that the Four Directions did win in the lawsuit.  They forced the Secretary of State and the counties to establish early voting stations.  It may not have been permanent, but it was a change form the status quo.
Under either standard, it is apparent that the Fees Awards Act requires a litigant to establish "some sort of clear, causalrelationship between the litigation brought and the practical outcome realized. '49 A similar element of causality has been adopted by the courts in construing other fee-shifting statutes. In the context of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for example, one court has stated that "to 'prevail' a party must establish . .. that the litigation activities served to establish the existence of the right or contributed to an enjoyment of the right. ' 50 Causality also is an element of a two-tier test which the courts have applied in deter- mining the eligibility of applicants for fee awards under the FOIA. As enunciated by Judge Friendly in Vermont Low Income Advo- cacy Council, Inc. v. Usery,51 the successful FOIA plaintiff must demonstrate, at a minimum, that "the prosecution of the action could reasonably have been regarded as necessary and that the ac- tion had substantial causative effect on the delivery of the information.
The paper also talks about what is called the catalyst doctrine.  The same legal paper states:

In addition to the basic standard of formal success on a cen- tral or significant issue in litigation,5" the federal courts have adopted a "catalyst" test which extends the prevailing party con- cept beyond the typical courtroom context. Pursuant to such "catalyst" doctrine, a plaintiff, although having failed in the litigation of his claim, may nevertheless be deemed to have prevailed if his lawsuit was a factor in the elimination of a challenged practice or procedure."4 Conceptually subsumed within this approach is the established rule that a plaintiff may prevail even when his suit had been mooted by a last-minute tender of the requested relief.  difficult case arises, however, when the defendant claims to have "adopted" a new practice after the commencement of the plaintiff's action and denies that the suit played any part in the decision to provide such relief. In such cases, the courts have inquired into the nature and extent of the causative role performed by the plain- tiff's suit.58 
 I am no lawyer, but if I was playing one on TV, I would look at suing the state for recovery of fees.  It took the lawsuit to begin to change the discriminatory practice.  The judge in the case confirmed it in the trials.  In the end I think that the only thing Frankenstein and party will gain in doing this is even more bad blood with Native Americans in South Dakota.

Read more here:

Friday, August 23, 2013

Mr. Hickey Responds to the Minimum Wage Issue

I wanted to allow everyone to see Mr. Hickey's response because many times people don't look into the comments.  This is his response in full and I appreciate the honest response.

This makes me smile. Are you seriously suggesting raising someone's pay .50 cents an hour will make them now able to afford daycare and that this will help my business? (I said i had a waiting list - my problem isn't trying to get one more kid in the building.) You could raise the minimum wage $5 an hour and they'd still need state subsidy to afford daycare. If you are making minimum wage you can't afford daycare. We have 125 kids or so in our daycare not including our after school program and 49 of our staff last year were part time . Health insurance premiums and mandates means we have to back off the number of full time positions and rely more on part time. 9 of those part time workers last year were below $8.50/ hour.

However that low wage DOES NOT factor in is a substantial benefit I offer employees.... They can use the daycare themselves for $1-2 per hour per kid. If we raise wages, those types of benefits will be reduced or eliminated. Actually they've already been reduced. Several years ago I offered free daycare to employees. Do the math on what that benefit is worth for a single mother of two working a low wage at our daycare. Trust me it's huge.

Here's another thing. Before you jump to conclusions that I have trouble keeping good people because I don't pay them, come visit and see that we have high morale and low turnover. We are eight years old and have people who've worked here since the start. We take care of people and they will tell you that - we've fixed or replaced employees cars, paid rent, given food, gift cards, given bonuses and free daycare at Christmas to employees and struggling parents.

Did you know that no daycare in town is a moneymaker? In fact, unless a daycare is subsidized by a church or a company (for Wells Fargo or Citibank or Sanford Employees) or an in-home daycare, that a daycare can't even stay open unless they discontinue offering infant daycare. I calculated a a few years ago we were losing $100 a day in one of our nurseries. This is because the adult/baby ratio is 1:5. You lose money at that ratio even when the church/company or home daycare owner subsidizes the facility/building. To make up for this we have older age kids with a 1:10 ratio and there is margin there. You'll notice some daycares only have a token amount of babies and mostly toddlers and older kids. They make up for the money lost in infant care by starting after school programs as we have. If we put a notice on our sign that we have infant openings we'd have 20 new babies here tomorrow.

My point is the minimum wage of some part-time employees is hardly a factor in daycare profitability - it makes it even harder to make it go. Please understand that judgments that we pay people low wages is hardly fair to the enormous amount of subsidy and benefits employees and parents are offered here and in other church and corporate daycares. For us it's a ministry first and a business second. In the places where it's only a business people drop infant care to a minimum even though that is what is most needed.

He does make some good points that I completely agree with.  First, running a daycare is a difficult calling and not an industry that will make most people rich.  I understand that their are some mandates, especially on infants, that make it harder for a daycare to make a profit.  I think the adult/baby ratio at a lower level is a good thing, but that really has nothing to the minimum wage issue that I I brought up.  
Second, I want to make sure that I do not believe that his employees at the daycare are not hard working or loyal.  I am glad to see several ways that Mr. Hickey looks out for his employees.  The reference I made with increased productivity and job loyalty was to connect to the idea that an increase in minimum wage can increase productivity and job loyalty.  As a conservative writer with Forbe's magazine put it:
This is why I think conservatives should favor this policy. It makes workers work harder, earn more, and thus claim less of other welfare benefits that are comparatively ”free” from the recipients standpoint but costly from the governments standpoint.
My poor wording at the time may have made it seem that your minimum wage workers may leave for other higher paying jobs.  It appears that out of the 49 staff members, you only have 9 at minimum wage (or at least below $8.50 an hour).  I don't know the specific situation of your business and was only putting out realistic hypotheticals to show that an increase will not destroy a business.  
I am still confused having costs for payroll costs will increase by .65% will mean that you will have to take away all of those benefits.  That was the real issue I wanted to raise.  It is a claim that many people have threatened with a minimum wage increase.
As to the fact that people on minimum wage simply can't afford daycare, I know several that need to make it work.  In some cases, one spouse may be maybe earning a little more than minimum wage while the other is working at minimum wage.  What does $1.25 an hour increase mean to a minimum wage worker (The current minimum wage in South Dakota is $7.25 an hour) working 35 hours a week?  A $2,275 increase.  
Thank you for the information the you provided Mr. Hickey.  I hope that your daycare continues to grow and hope the best for you and your employees; however, I think that you made the best argument for raising the minimum wage when you state, "You could raise the minimum wage $5 an hour and they'd still need state subsidy to afford daycare. If you are making minimum wage you can't afford daycare."  Maybe we should begin to take steps so that an adult doesn't have to choose between finding daycare for a child and maybe finding a job.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Rep. Steve Hickey Makes A Great Case to Raise the Minimum Wage

The other day Representative Steve Hickey posted this

20 AugThe proposed minimum wage increase in SD means $2965/yr added to my $454,481/yr daycare biz payroll. Curious how it would affect your biz.
I was curious, because I have had children in daycare full time and still have children in a home daycare after school hours, what would happen if the minimum wage allowed for one more child to go to his daycare?

20 Augstevehickey How much more would you make now that one more parent maybe able to send his/her child to your daycare?
His response:
21 AugLarsonTizzle ?no more . People at minimum wage can't afford daycare, period. We have a waiting list as is. May raise prices though. 
I think that make a pretty good case right there that "people at minimum wage can't afford daycare, period." that we should raise the minimum wage so that maybe they could afford daycare.  Except for the fact that many parents, if they work, have to figure out some kind of daycare for their children.  Most daycares charge about $125 a week for one child.  If he could get one more child enrolled to his daycare, that would mean an extra $6,250.  But he has a waiting list and can't afford to expand.  I understand that $2,965 is a significant amount of money.  It is nothing to sneeze at when you are a teacher, but if I was a math teacher I would have figured this out earlier.

His business payroll is $454,481 a year.  By his words, this is payroll and not other expenses.  The additional cost in payroll will be $2,965.  This means that his payroll cost will only go up .65%  That is a decimal point in from of that number 6 there.  His costs will go up less than 1%.  I guess that if you work for the daycare, you better not expect a raise anytime soon.  He also is short sighted and doesn't see how this might actually increase productivity and workers may be willing to stay longer.

Then I also did the math on the price increase he would have to charge the people that send their children.  A staff payroll of $454,481 means that he probably has a significant amount of children at his daycare.  I don't know the exact number, but lets play it very safe and say 60 children.  If he charges an extra dollar (THAT IS 1 DOLLAR) a week for the child, he would make $3000 and cover the extra cost.

To sum up Mr. Hickey's argument for the minimum wage.  His more than $500,000 business may see payroll cost increase less than 1%.  If he choose to pass that cost onto his customer, they would see a .66% increase in the price of send his or her child to what I am sure is an excellent daycare.  I think that provides an excellent case for increasing the minimum wage.

Kristi Noem's Logic: Today's Lesson on Oxymoron

The definition of the word "oxymoron" is a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.  Another good example is Kristi Noem's belief in how we should handle the SNAP program.  She is arguing that we should make people have a job and can pay for their food before we give food stamps and that would should implement a costly drug testing policy if people want to eat.  
In September, Noem said, the House will tackle legislation to tackle the nutrition side of the farm bill again with the hope of instituting cuts. 
Noem said nutrition funding needs to go to those who really need it. There has been discussion of income testing for recipients as well as possible drug testing and work requirements for those needing assistance. 
There would be exemptions for the elderly if such testing was instituted, she said. 
"Some of us have a little heartburn with making senior citizens take a drug test before they receive food stamps," she said.
The elderly in this case is actually set at the age of 55.

So the idea is that people who have a need to food stamps are whacked out druggies and we shouldn't be giving our money to those meth-head welfare parasites.  Right....That seems logical?  Except the problem is that people not on food stamps and receiving government benefits like farm aid and farm insurance are just as likely to use drugs.
On every measure we examine, SNAP recipients are only slightly more likely than non-recipients to display substance use disorders. Yet the absolute risks associated with SNAP receipt are quite small. And some obvious socio-demographic subgroups display much higher prevalence of substance use disorders than SNAP recipients do.
 The proof is in the labs of democracy, the states.  Florida passed a low to require drug testing for benefits.  The results:
The Florida experience proved to be a costly waste of taxpayers money according to the Tampa Tribune.  “The Tampa Tribune investigated the results of those July 2011 drug tests and found that “96 percent proved to be drug free”, another 2 percent never bothering to complete the lengthy application process, and 2 percent actually failing drug testing. At an average cost of $30 per test, the state was hemorrhaging tax dollars at a rate of “$28,800-$43,200 monthly”… FAR out pacing the supposed “savings” from preventing drug-abusers from gaming the system to buy drugs.”Crooks and Liars  
But maybe we need to test farmers, grandma and grandpa, and seven year-old children.  They can be just as guilty. Ask this farmer from Vermont:
A Vermont farmer has been charged in a large marijuana trafficking ring involving drugs that federal officials believe were smuggled across the U.S.-Canadian border. 
But in the end all of this is a smoke screen to claim that you are tough on something while you allow farm insurance sellers to get rich off the government.  This whole thing is based around less than 10% of the recipients of SNAP benefits:
In a meeting with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board last year, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said only eight percent of people getting food stamps, officially referred to as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, are on welfare. 
“Ninety-two percent are not,” Vilsack said. “They are senior citizens, people with disabilities, men and women who are working — who may be working a part-time job or a full-time job that doesn’t pay them enough to make ends meet — and children. Nearly 40 percent of SNAP beneficiaries are children.” 
Where is the "logic" in anything Ms. Noem is talking about when it comes to the handling of the farm bill? 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Kristi Noem Gets Ugly?

Kristi Noem has been promising and promising that the House would pass a Farm Bill.

JUNE 6, 2013
“I’m optimistic it will pass the House but we have challenges before us,” she said. 

MAY 17, 2013

Kristi Noem: House will pass farm bill

MAY 20, 2012
"I think we have a better chance at getting a good farm bill with solidly funded programs this year than we do putting an extension in place for a year and doing it next year because this is an election,"

She has also stated that because of the failures, she keeps feeling disappointed with the leadership.  You know, that guy that keeps coming to SIoux Falls and fundraising for her.

September 12, 2012
"What the leadership has told me is that they are not convinced that they have the votes to pass it," Noem said. "What I have told them is that I don't believe we'll ever truly know if we have the votes until we schedule it and have the vote." 

June 26, 2013
Noem, who once served in Republican leadership, took aim squarely at Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). She reminded him that he controls the House floor, and she drilled Cantor hard on his precise plans to mop up the mess, several Republicans who attended the meeting said.

"So you will forgive me when I won't hold my breath when she said:
"My leadership team has told me that it's going to happen, because I've been pretty ugly with them at different times," said Noem, a Republican.... "
Despite a divided, partisan 113th Congress and the farm bill's recent legislative difficulties, Noem predicted that compromise would not only be reached but would pass both houses.
I will give her credit for getting so vocal with her leadership after the last failure.  I just hope that this time, she can actually deliver on her promise.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

SD Task Force Is Ready to Report. Seems To Support Expansion

A task force that made up of 29 members has been studying if they should expand Medicaid to over 48,000 South Dakotans.  It seems that the task force is leaning to yes on the expansion.
The task force recommended that if Daugaard and the Legislature approve an expansion, they should include a provision that ends the expansion if the federal government fails to pay its full 90 percent share of the costs after 2020.
I think that this is a fair tradeoff.  The idea is that if the federal government fails to follow through with its contract, South Dakota can alter the contract.  To me, the issue of expanding Medicaid has always been about long term thinking and not instant gratification.

One of the concerns brought up by Daugaard's appointed task force chair is a healthcare shortage of doctors, because people would seek primary care instead of emergency care.  It seems that one of the biggest problems facing mental health availability is a lack of funding for different services like Community Health Centers.  A 2009 report from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) pointed out that one of the biggest obstacles to mental health services was a lack of resources.
South Dakota's community mental health services "are basically starving" due to lack of resources, leading to increased demand for care at its state psychiatric hospital.
South Dakota spends the lowest amount in the nation on Mental Health Care (45.1 million).  That amount was the same in 2009 as it was in 2012.  North Dakota increased spending on Mental Health Care by 48.1% to 73.9 million, Minnesota increased by 6.8% to 204.4 million, and Iowa increased it by 3.2% to 208.2.  Expanding Obamacare might place a burden in the short term, but an increase in costumers will lead to an increase in people willing to meet those customers.  If the Governor's appointed task leader is so worried about access to mental healthcare, maybe she should recommend spending a few million dollars more on the service instead of propping up business ventures like NBP.

I hope that the government will look toward the example of Iowa which is expanding Medicaid.
Expanding Medicaid to an estimated 115,000 Iowa adults under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would add nearly $2.2 billion and more than 2,300 jobs to the state’s economy over the next seven years while saving more than $1.6 billion, according to a report released today by the Iowa Hospital Association and funded by the AHA. The federal government would pay 100% of the cost of the Medicaid expansion through 2016, phasing down to 90% in 2020. “Medicaid expansion is a win for everyone in Iowa,” said IHA President and CEO Kirk Norris. “It’s a win for uninsured Iowans who will be covered. It’s a win for Iowa businesses that will benefit from these new dollars and a healthier workforce and it’s a win for the state with more than a billion and a half dollars in net savings.”
In the end, expanding Medicaid could increase the economy by $200 million at a cost of $2 million for the first three years and then up to $20 million in 2020.  It is also key to protecting rural services as the Winner Advocate summed up:
Medicaid expansion is especially important in rural areas, in order to help keep our hospitals financially functional. If Medicaid were expanded, it would drastically cut back on uncompensated care and the high cost of emergency room visits from the uninsured would be reduced as well.
  I think that the issue is fairly clear.  The benefits of expansion outweigh the potential costs.  Simple cost/benefit analysis thinking on the policy matter.  If the Governor needs a "Circuit-breaker" clause in it to allow for reassessment in future years, then I say include it.  I hope South Dakota will soon stop trying to be the state that leads from the rear and begins to think long-term.

Monday, August 19, 2013

ALEC Tells the SD GOP To Be Disappointed With SD Education

School is starting again for many districts in South Dakota this week.  Students under the age of 12 will probably be looking forward to this time, and those over the age of 13 will be practicing their eye rolls to respond to the question, "You ready for school to start?"  Most school staff will already have been hard at work in preparing for another year of trying to encourage those young minds to care about learning and helping to prepare them for a life outside of school; all the time wondering how the Governor and many in the GOP will show their disdain for our profession.  It has been a tough few years for many in the education field to be told that they are a bunch of failures that either need to bribed to get off their lazy rear ends or that as Daugaard claims, we are all basically "average."
"We're paying our teachers right now as if they were all average. Why shouldn't they then perform average?"  
I wonder whatever happened to these people to think that teachers in this state are do horrible, and then discovered a possible answer when looking at one of the most powerful influences on SD GOP: ALEC.

The 18th ALEC report card gives states a letter grade.  South Dakota gets one of the lowest grades in the ALEC report: D+.  Only three other states received a lower grade (D) by ALEC: North Dakota, Montana, and Nebraska.  That's right, according to ALEC, states like Arkansas, Louisiana, and Washington D.C. (I know that is not a state) received much higher scores than South Dakota by ALEC, yet South Dakota outperformed each of those significantly on the NAEP for 4th and 8th grade reading exams (provided in the ALEC report).

South Dakota ranks 24th for fourth graders and 9th for eighth graders.

Arkansas gets a grade of C, yet ranks 35th in fourth grade and 36th in eighth grade.
Louisiana gets a grade of B, yet ranks 50th in fourth grade and 49th in eighth grade.
Washington D.C. gets a grade of B-, yet ranks 51st in both fourth and eight grade.

How do states like South Dakota, North Dakota, and Nebraska fail?  We don't allow for charter schools, vouchers, and have not implemented merit pay and getting rid of tenure (which is really a continuing contract).  So the next time people like Hal Wick, Manny Steele, Dan Lederman and more than another dozen of GOP members say that SD education isn't working, ask them why are they listening for ALEC and not South Dakota's teachers and school administrators first.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Stace Nelson and National IDs

Stace Nelson is driving the local blogging world a little crazy (or maybe it is that the local bloggers were already crazy).  Stace Nelson has recently come out a presented some issues and ideas that he has for South Dakota and the nation.  At times it seems that his positions seem to contradict what he is quoted as saying.  Take for example his stance on clean energy.  His position states:
We must expand ethanol, biodiesel, and wind electricity production in South Dakota which will not only help our environment, but will help free America from a forced dependency on foreign oil, and are sound business investments for South Dakota's future.
Then he quotes himself saying (in italics):
“My faith is in my fellow South Dakotans to evolve in our energy use, production, and conservation, not the creation of yet another wasteful federal government program.” 
Is he just hoping that people will move away from Keystone Pipe needed, coal polluting, and water poisoning types of energy, or does he support (non-cap-and-trade) programs that would support the clean energy industry?  It seems a bit disjointed and trying to have it both ways.

The thing that has a few of Dakota War College's respondents in an uproar seems to be an issue of whether Stace Nelson supports National ID cards.  If you read the self-quote, it would actually appear that he does:
“I am for tamper proof Social Security Identification cards bearing a photograph and fingerprint of the taxpayer. Until that happens nationally, I am for requiring all persons employed in South Dakota to have a valid South Dakota drivers license or ID. 
Social Security Cards are issued by the federal government and many people apply for their card and number soon after being born.  For there to be a "tamper proof Social Security Identification card with a photograph and fingerprint of the taxpayer," one would need to provide that information to a national database.  This would make this a National ID card.  This surprise me that he would call from a new method for the government to track you and one I am not sure that most South Dakotans would support a new government tool that could identify you and would guarantee that everyone's fingerprints are on file.

David Frum provides some justification that a National ID card would be a good thing.  On the other hand, Tea Party favorite Ron Paul is dead set against them.  I think this quote is confusing the issue that Stace really wanted to make:  He hates illegal immigration.  Hopefully he can get someone that will make sure his true message is sent out and not muddled or presented in a confusing way.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

How I Hope To Live With The Common Core Standards

I truly think that the idea of establishing a baseline of standards taught across the board is not necessarily a bad thing.  In my little English world, (I don't fully understand the math standards) I can accept most of that standards that are established by the grade level.  I do think that a junior in high school should be able to determine two or more themes in a complicated text and defend their answer using the text.  Unfortunately, that isn't what Common Core ended up focusing on.  There are several problems with how we are approaching Common Core.

The biggest concern that I have is that the idea of the Common Core is the over reliance on testing that we saw in No Child left Behind.  Charlotte Danielson, the person who designed the tool that South Dakota teachers will be sort of evaluated on (I am sure that teachers will still be held up to the testing lens), had this to say about the Common Core:
I do worry somewhat about the assessments—I’m concerned that we may be headed for a train wreck there. The test items I’ve seen that have been released so far are extremely challenging. If I had to take a test that was entirely comprised of items like that, I’m not sure that I would pass it—and I’ve got a bunch of degrees. So I do worry that in some schools we’ll have 80 percent or some large number of students failing. That’s what I mean by train wreck.
I also worry about what the Common Core does not focus on.  Alan Singer recently wrote:
Common Core standards are supposed to "provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn" and be "relevant to the real world." But "real world" expectations are defined as preparing students for "success in college and careers" and "to compete successfully in the global economy." As best as I can ascertain, in the entire document, there is no real discussion of life in a democratic society and the role of education in promoting democratic processes and democratic values. 
I look at the standards from the view of communication and have witnessed the gutting of speaking skills.  The Common Core has only six standards that can be boiled down to the following:

  1. Participate in discussions
  2. Use different types of research
  3. Listen critically
  4.  Talk to people so they can follow your organization
  5. Use power point
  6. Talk in way that shows you understand the rules of English
That's about it.  The past standards incorporated many different ideas and additional standards.  We have gutted the communication aspects for a stronger focus on the rules.  We are doing this when we know that one of the most important tools a business looks for in employees is the ability to communicate.  One study (as an example) states:
...oral communication was one of the top three competencies needed to succeed in a managerial position. Yet other studies over decades have demonstrated the unsatisfactory oral communication skills of recent graduates (Bolt-Lee & Foster, 2003; Reinsch & Shelby, 1997). Thus, it appears that preparing students’ oral communication skills for the managerial workplace has not been highly successful. 
Other fears have included an over emphasis on non-fiction literature that would push out important fictional works, the pushing out of non-core subjects like art and ag. sciences, wastes money, and a whole lot more.

So what is an educator supposed to do?  The Common Core is hear to stay in South Dakota.  I plan to use it to focus my classroom offerings, but still teach beyond the standards.  I plan to encourage other departments to teach more non-fiction reading, but I am not throwing out The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, or any other non-fiction that is part of the current course of study.  I plan to continue to teach my students the difference between an informative speech and a persuasive speech and a special occasion speech.  I plan to teach my students how to construct a proper argument in a public forum round.  Finally, I plan not to worry (to much) on the test results of the students.  The reason for not worrying is that if push the students and the students are willing to give some effort, they should end up testing just fine on what ever test they are given, and if they don't I will examine the data with a shrewd eye and focus on if my students are actually learning skills that give them a chance to grow and change in the world and not if I made the testing gods happy.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why the GOP Echo Chamber Is Bad For Everyone

This morning the RNC voted for a NBC and CNN debate ban for GOP primaries over a potential Hillary Clinton biopic.  The idea is that they don't think people that might support the other side shouldn't ask questions.  The idea of a debate is to explore all ideas in a free and open marketplace of ideas.  Encouraging debates in an echo-chamber is an excellent step in destroying democracy.  It becoming more and more difficult to encourage the population to actually care about involvement in politics.

In 2012, I worked very hard to try and host a debate for candidates in District 6 considering that it was a new district.  I spent a lot of time to make sure that the candidates felt that it would be an open forum and focus on questions that ranged from education, small businesses, and agricultural issues.  I learned a lot from trying to host these debate.  The biggest thing that I learned was people just don't want to go to debates.  They don't seem to care.  The second thing I learned was to host it in a small location so that you can provide easy to hear and see video footage.

To avoid the idea that a Democrat would play unfair, I established some basic rules.  I gave the candidates the questions ahead of time.  The format was established ahead of time to provide equal time for candidates.  The candidates had a chance to make a statement and after everyone had a chance to speak, they were allowed a chance to rebut any of the comments.

The GOP shouldn't be afraid to go to supposedly hostile places to debate (just as I would condemn the DNC if they banned debates on FOX),  candidates shouldn't be afraid to hold town hall meetings that will allow for as much of the public to attend and ask hard questions, and the public must be willing to ask those questions and then shut-up and listen. Our democracy will not be destroyed by things like Obamacare or outside sources:  It will be destroyed when we ignore the marketplace of ideas.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Kristi Noem Hates Sex-Trafficking, Please Convince SD GOP To Do Something About It.

Kristi Noem has been unsuccessful at getting a farm bill passed and wasting time with over 40 meaningless votes on Obamacare, but she is trying to take a stand against a controversial topic of sex trafficking.  (I was actually surprised to see that some people are actually complaining about a bill like this.)  The big thing is that she is willing to work with Democrats on a bill.  It turns out that despite the recent sex sting in Sturgis, South Dakota has a lot that they can do to fight sex trafficking and protect victims.

South Dakota Public Broadcasting's Kealy Bultena reported today that South Dakota ranked dead last in the ranking by the Polaris Project, an organization that fights human trafficking and works with legislatures to develop laws to protect victims of human trafficking.

The Polaris Project’s 2013 ranking shows South Dakota as the only state labeled Tier 4. In the project’s description, that means South Dakota has "not made minimal efforts to enact a basic legal framework to combat human trafficking and should actively work to improve" laws, especially those that protect victims. 
"Right now, South Dakota has a criminal law against both sex and labor  trafficking," Senior Policy Counsel at Polaris Project James Dold says. "I think some of the things it could work on is making sure that a stand-alone asset forfeiture law is in place, making sure that there’s victim assistance provisions, safe harbor, as was mentioned earlier in the call, so that sexually exploited children aren’t arrested for prostitution-related offenses."
I can only hope that South Dakota GOP will consider listening to a group like Polaris Project when it comes to crafting legislation instead of ALEC.

My Wife Is a Saint.

Fourteen years ago, my beautiful wife showed that she can be a saint and agreed to marry me.  While I am sure that there has been many times she asked herself what did she get herself into, I am thankful and honored that she still calls me her husband.

The first movie that we went to was Val Kilmer's The Saint.  Little did I know then that I had meet a real life saint.  Our marriage has seen nearly as many changes and ups and downs as Simon Templar, but in the end, I can think of no one more perfect.

I do but ask that you be always fair 
That I forever may continue kind; 
Knowing me what I am, you should not dare 
To lapse from beauty ever, nor seek to bind 
My alterable mood with lesser cords; 
Weeping and such soft matters must invite 
To further vagrancy; and bitter words 
Chafe soon to irremediable flight, 
Wherefore I pray you if you love me dearly, 
Less dear to hold me than your own bright charms, 
Whence it may fall that until death, or nearly, 
I shall not move to struggle from your arms: 
Fade if you must,--I would but bid you be 
Like the sweet year, doing all things graciously.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Gant's Lawyer Admitted That Gant Has Discretion With HAVA

So much to talk about and so little time.  Stace Nelson is going to formally announce his campaign fist fight with Mike Rounds to represent the GOP in the Senate race.  Pat Powers MC is sad that teachers won't be walking around with loaded guns.  Did I mention Stace Nelson is running?

With inservice and Turner County Fair (the four best days of summer) rolling around, it is important to focus on what everyone is not reading about.

Jason Gant knows that he can use HAVA to improve elections; at least according to his lawyer.
Frankenstein said that in negotiations on her side, she persuaded the secretary of state to change what she termed “internal policies” and release South Dakota’s HAVA money for the satellite office in Shannon County, which overlaps much of Pine Ridge. He could do this, she said, because in May 2008, South Dakota had completed HAVA’s initial requirement to modernize elections with up-to-date voting machines and the like. 
From then on, Frankenstein said, the state was free to spend its federal HAVA appropriation on additional ways to improve elections, including satellite offices.Brooks v. Ganttestimony and court documents confirm this. In Judge Schreier’s opinion, she noted that Shannon County residents had “minimal” early-voting access until Brooks v. Gant was filed.

But I am sure one of the real reasons that Gant keeps misleading the South Dakota public and the elections is because as an expert testified in the Brooks et. al v. Gant, early voting greatly increases voter turnout.
Early in-person voting has been observed to stimulate participation, and is clearly supported by voters.  It has also been observed to more accurate vote counting by election officials.  As a result, election officials are generally strong advocates of early voting, and the process has been supported by the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Association of Secretaries of State....
To summarize, early voting has substantive, procedural, psychological benefits to voting in the United States. 
Once again, Gant should have paid attention to a lawsuit that had his name on it.

UPDATE: My apologies to Pat Powers.  He did not write the entry on DWC.  I need to make sure I look for guest bloggers.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Dan Lederman Defends ALEC Because He Doesn't Want You To Know Who Bought His Support!

Recently Dick Durbin has announced that he is going to go after ALEC like Republicans on an ACORN bender.  He sent a letter out to over 300 businesses to try and find out if they support ALEC legislation that people like Senator Dan Lederman bring back and force on the South Dakota population.  This letter has made many ALEC bag-persons unhappy.  One of those is our very on ALEC poster boy: Dan Lederman.  He posted "his" open letter to ALEC like any true-blue ALEC supporter would do:  Copy and paste.

He states the following:

We understand letters from your office were recently sent to a variety of private companies and citizen groups requesting information about their participation in the American Legislative Exchange Council-information no group is required to disclose. 
Our Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or assembly, including participation in organizations including labor unions, trade associations and 501(c)3 educational nonprofits, like ours....
While you may disagree with our organization’s policies, members of the American Legislative Exchange Council have the right to discuss them. Additionally, the Tenth Amendment ensures those powers not specifically enumerated in the Constitution be reserved for the states. As such, ALEC brings together state legislators to discuss state-based policies....
The contents of your letter are eerily similar to the questions asked by the Internal Revenue Service of other citizen groups the IRS deemed as politically conservative. Questions such as the individual donors, purposes of organizational events, contents of meetings and subjects of prayers are clearly a violation of the First and Tenth Amendments and the general jurisdiction of a federal office holder. 
You can read the rest of ALEC's letter to Durbin here.

Unless Dan Lederman is now ALEC, this is the worst type of copying I have seen since May.  He could have at least changed the plural pronouns to a singular pronoun.  Now that we have more confirmation that ALEC simply uses legislatures as tools, here is some of the legislation you can look forward this winter.

Electricity Freedom Act
Summary: The Electricity Freedom Act repeals the State of {insert state}’s requirement that electric distribution utilities and electric services companies provide _____ percent of their electricity supplies from renewable energy sources by ____. 
The Occupational Licensing Relief and Job Creation Act

SummaryOccupational licensing increases unemployment by about 1%, raises prices by about 15%, and offers no incremental consumer protection over a competitive market.  This Act ensures that an individual may pursue lawful occupation free from unnecessary occupational regulations, and protects against the use of occupational regulations to reduce competition and increase prices to consumers. When enacting future occupational regulations, this Act requires state legislatures to find real harm, and select the least-restrictive regulation to address that harm. The Act also protects entrepreneurs by shifting the burden to the government to show in court and administrative hearings that it is enforcing occupational laws for health-and-safety reasons, and not solely as a barrier to entry.
State Council on Competitive Government Act
Across the country there is a growing interest in making government more efficient, cost-effective, and competitive. This model legislation creates a {insert state} Council which represents key members of {insert state} leadership, with the statutory empowerment to take projects from concept to contract. The Council advances projects that reexamine the method of delivering services in ways that improve efficiency, effectiveness, and results that are relevant to citizens.
You can find out more about the ALEC agenda and should look for other laws we have on our books thanks to the corporations.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Nice Move Joe Kolbach

Joe Kolbach is definably doing some good things in South Dakota.  Some things I hope the state legislators are noticing.  Recently the owner of the Gary Buffalo Business Resort and Center started up the Midwest Training Academy, a place for veterans and aged-out foster system young adults to transition to life.  Representative Kathy Tyler summed up a bit of what the program offers:
He and his supporters restored part of the former South Dakota School for the Blind (what hadn’t been restored to a hotel/restaurant) into dorm rooms and classrooms for foster children who have outgrown the system and veterans.  Course offerings include hospitality (hotel supervision), trucking, welding, and wind energy maintenance.  The courses are six to eighteen months with guaranteed jobs.  What an amazing program! These young people will great additions to our workforce and to our society. 
The state of South Dakota does offer extended services to children in foster care, but there is more that they could do.
The South Dakota Department of Social Services listed 707 children in the foster care system during the 2013 fiscal year. Of that number, 59 aged out of the system. The Division of Child Protective Services is required by law to provide foster youth with transition assistance starting at age 16 and continuing until 21. 
I had a wonderful student that was part of the speech and debate team.  She came to me and said that she wanted to do an original oratory her senior year (original oratory is a persuasive speech).  I looked at her and asked if she had a topic in mind.  She was a bit hesitant at first, but after a bit we came up with the foster care system.  You see, not only was she a spitfire when it came to debate, she was also part of the foster care system.  She was happy with her foster family, but boy did she have a lot to say about the whole system and some of the very strange rules that were in place.  She also confided in me that she was a bit worried about graduating.  She knew she would "age out" and knew the statistics of foster kids that did age out.  She also knew that she did have some support system in place.

One option may be allowing those in foster care to stay for one more year.
A growing body of research provides direction on improving outcomes for youth in transition. For example, research suggests that allowing youth to remain in foster care voluntarily after age 18 is an important policy option, particularly since many youth do not graduate from high school until after their 18th birthday. The Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth (Midwest Study), a longitudinal study of youth in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, compared the outcomes of young adults who were still in care at age 19 to the outcomes of youth who had already been discharged. The report found that those youth remaining in state custody for an additional year were more likely to advance their education, have stable housing, stay out of the juvenile justice system, receive independent living services, and have access to health and mental health services. 
However, what I remember from her speech is that the best thing that you could do was provide a loving home for a foster care kid.  Consider being a foster care family and remember that foster care kids just wanted to be treated like other kids.  This young woman's speech has stuck with me over many years, and I hope that more can be done to help people in foster care that age out.