Politics: Note What Republicans Do

                I don’t care about your facts.  I can hate the President if I want.  I hated the last one, and, I’ll probably hate the next one, too.”

                “Obama is such a liar.  You know the hospital in Kenya where he claims he was born wasn’t even built yet?”

                “We don’t need government health care.  People should show some personal responsibility.  Medicare?  That’s different.  I worked for my Medicare.” 

                “My father didn’t vote.  My grandfather didn’t vote.  And you have some NERVE asking me to vote.”

                “Man isn’t causing global warming. Do you have any idea how much pollution is thrown out by volcanoes?”

                “The NRA endorsed the Governor and I listen to the NRA.  I’d die for my guns.”

                “Watch FOX news?  I don’t listen to any news.  I don’t read papers either.  I know to vote Republican without that stuff.”

I’ve heard a lot of scary nonsense working booths and knocking on doors during the last decade, but I’ve kept my faith in the American voter.

When the Republican leadership raged because Obamacare requires everyone to be insured, I trusted voters to realize this was a necessary tradeoff if insurance companies are to cover pre-existing conditions.

When the Republican House voted over 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, I trusted voters to realize this was a costly publicity stunt to distract from real problems.

When the Congressional Republicans in five House Committees spent months investigating four American deaths in Benghazi, I trusted most voters knew what the investigation eventually found: early information had been inaccurate, but no one had acted irresponsibly.  I even expected voters to be angry that Republicans had cut funding for embassy security.

And when Republican candidates answered every accusation of incompetence and corruption by calling their opponents Obama liberals, I trusted voters to recognize the diversion—and resent–the insult to their intelligence.

Then came the election of 2014 where voters trickled to the polls to vote to weaken social security, public education, worker’s pay and protections, and the rights of women and minorities.

Some Democratic friends are saying we must work harder, present a vision, and be less negative.  One, however, voiced our fear.  “I thought it was enough that we were at the bottom, but now I don’t think people are going to wake up until the bottom falls out.”

Nothing will change until people see the Republican leadership for what it is.

They don’t want to see good-paying jobs available.

They don’t want to see affordable healthcare.

They don’t want to see a good public roads and bridges.

They don’t want to see America with great schools and teachers.

They don’t even want to stop Hispanics from sneaking across our borders.

And they certainly don’t want Americans free from fear.

How do I know this?

Because of what they do.   They know their policies have brought suffering to Americans, yet they show no interest in examining them, much less changing them.

No, they are pleased with their results and are moving full steam ahead.

If the American people don’t fight now, we’ll see a return of the 1920s—where workers saw wages declining from $5 to $4 then $3 a week while a boss could spend $1800 a month on his mistress; where the workplace death rate was ten times today’s rate; and where air, water, and soil pollution was uncontrolled.

Republicans are tightening their hold on America.  Democrats–their most serious challengers—now control the legislatures of only six states.  Moreover, more and more national Democratic leaders are being co-opted.

We fight now or we fight later—or, like those of ancient Rome, we settle for bread and circuses.

Education: Attack on Teacher Rights

by Brenda Angel

To the Idaho State Board of Education, Tuesday, October 21, 2014

From the very beginning of Mr. Luna’s tenure, he has tried to force, what he calls, “teacher incentives” upon the K through twelve education system in Idaho.

But his so-called incentives, have proven over and over again to be unwelcome to most teachers, and most citizens in Idaho and mostly because they have been laced with the requirements that teachers trade in their due process rights, and trade in their continuing contract rights, in exchange for a few dollars. (Remember, Idaho does not have tenure for K-12 teachers.)

When the teachers did not respond as he felt they should, he then introduced his widely criticized ideas into the “Students Come First” legislative package after being voted into office for his second term. All the while campaigning under the guise that everything was wonderful under his leadership during his first term, but once in his second term, his so called “Luna Laws” were introduced which were not conservative, practical, nor educationally sound or research based.

The voters of the state of Idaho historically and overwhelmingly rejected the Luna Laws at the polls. Yet, now the Governor and Mr. Luna, citing the decision of the Governor’s Education Task Force, continues to repackage what the citizens of Idaho, and education practitioners, have said “no” to on every occasion when introduced. Merit Pay is now called “Leadership Pay” and now this?

As Mr Luna walks out the door, he seems to have convinced the State Board of Education to mandate these unpopular and unwanted programs once again; this time, offering teachers the possibility of the “promise of” a few more dollars, as though to appease and entice teachers for the included loss of their professional rights and due process. The proposal you are considering, links teacher certification with the subjective evaluation of a local school administrator, punitive to teachers, and not at all good for students or tax payers.

In addition, this time around, Mr. Luna and Governor Otter are requiring you to ignore the will of the Idaho Voters who Voted NO! NO! NO! on Propositions 1, 2, 3.

Teachers in Idaho desperately need a raise. Nobody, including the Task-Force members and the Board of Education, would dispute this. However, by tying compensation to certification, and by tying certification to high stakes testing, teachers can not be required to, and must not be forced to, hand over their due process rights, legal and contractual protections, and job security that was previously guaranteed, and that are necessary to allow teachers the freedom and confidence to do what they do best: to teach and to advocate for Idaho’s children.

And if my testimony is unclear to you, I am totally against this proposal, because it is punitive, not well thought out, unsustainable, unfair, and against the will of the people.

Submitted by,
Mrs. Brenda Angel

Education: Funding based on test scores fails kids

Levi Cavener    [Published in the Idaho-Press Tribune on July 21, 2014]

National Education Secretary Arne Duncan wants to tie test scores for special education students to the amount of money a state receives from the federal government for reimbursement of special education services. States that send back high test scores for special education students will get more money; those with lower scores will get less or even no money. Surely this will improve student learning, right?

Clearly, No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB) emphasis on tying student test scores to federal money was a major success! Cloning NCLB tools for special education students sounds like a real winner.

Secretary Duncan argued, “We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to a robust curriculum, they excel.”

If only teachers knew this was the magical brew to student success! Obviously teachers have never held special education students to a robust curriculum and high expectations, right? Secretary Duncan’s implication that special education and general education instructors do not already hold students to high standards is deeply offensive.

Let me be clear: I share Secretary Duncan’s belief that all students, special education students included, can make progress toward their academic goals. However, special education students, by definition, have a disability which adversely affects successful academic progress in comparison to typical students. If these students could progress at the rate of their peers, they would not need for special education services.

This doesn’t mean that special educators and general education teachers lower our expectations for these students; on the contrary, we bend over backwards to accommodate for individual student needs and accelerate their learning to bridge the gap.

However, having high expectations also doesn’t mean that we expect a student reading at a first grade level to independently read Shakespeare’s Othello and write an analysis of racial connotations within the text. No, it means we instruct the student at a level that is challenging, but attainable.

Thus Secretary Duncan’s plan is the square root of stupid. Special education students are already being monitored for growth of their IEP goals on an individual level; emphasis on growth, not a set proficiency score, a much more logical way to monitor achievement for all students. .

Tying federal dollars to these scores is reckless. How does withholding dollars for special education services improve student learning? Does anyone believe that more learning will take place with less qualified teachers and reduced budgets? Perhaps districts’ inability to order new curriculum materials will accelerate student learning? Surely students will enjoy yet another high stakes standardized test!

We have already seen the devastating impact NCLB’s policy of withholding dollars to the neediest schools. Educators have firsthand witnessed the horrors associated with being in Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) jail.

Schools with the most challenging populations, schools are financially abandoned.

Data demonstrating a total failure in tying dollars to high stakes tests isn’t anything new or particularly shocking. Indeed, the respected Cato Institute reported in 2007 that NCLB’s strategy was a total bust. NCLB is such a colossal failure that the federal government has resorted to giving out waivers to individual states because congress has refused to rewrite the law.

Yet, despite study after study confirming these findings, somehow Mr. Duncan continues to believe this strategy will work for Special Education students. What was it Einstein said about the definition of insanity?

This policy has no place in our nation’s schools. It puts our most vulnerable students in the cross-hairs of political brinkmanship. These students deserve better, much better.

Idaho politics: Voters support Dems on issues

Judy Ferro     [Published by the Idaho Press-Tribune June 30, 2014]

Enough.  We’ve heard the message.  Political pundits in four states have echoed it.  “The Idaho Republicans may be at war with one another, but the Democrats can’t win.”   Sometimes they add, “because of Idaho’s demographics.”

Predicting Republican victories at this point tends to suppress voter turnout.  Why bother learning about the candidates if my vote will make no difference?  Three decades of Republican victories probably explains why nearly half the county’s adults are not registered.

And no pundit explains what demographics they mean.  Perhaps all the young people leaving the state?   Or all the people working for minimum wage?   Or maybe just the fact there are more registered Republicans?

Over half the voters in Canyon County have locked themselves out of the Republican primaries by registering as “unaffiliated.”  Now, some of these are Democrats who don’t want to be hasseled over their politics.  Still, independents—those who vote for the man/woman, not the party—are by far the largest voting bloc in the county.

So why have Republicans consistently won?

Thinking it was issues, Idaho Democrats once tried a slate of “Republican-lite” candidates.  Some, like Walt Minnick, were liberal on social issues and conservative on economic ones.  Others were conservative on social issues and middle-of-the-road on economic ones.  Walt did win—once.  Overall, though, the tactic undercut Democratic support without attracting many Independents.

And why should it?  There is every reason to believe that voters, even Idaho voters, agree with the Democrats on their defining issues.

A recent Russell Sage Foundation study of polls found that 90% of Americans do not want to see social security cut.

Over 80% want the government to fund schools well and to protect the jobs of American workers.

Nearly 80% want the minimum wage high enough so that one full-time worker worker can keep a family above the poverty level.  About the same number want college to be affordable for everyone.

Nearly 70% are against cutting domestic programs like Medicare, education and highways in order to lower the Federal deficit.

Even federal health care is supported by 60%.

These are the defining Democratic issues.  If they were what really counted with voters, Democrats would be winning handily.

What about the emotional “wedge issues?”  Nationally, voters are more evenly divided on these issues.  Yet, polls indicate 80% of Americans want background checks on all gun purchases and 55% support limiting gun clips to 10 bullets.    Amazingly, only 20% oppose abortions in all circumstances (even though 50% believe they are morally wrong).   Support for gay marriage runs about 55%.

Idaho Democrats are divided on these issues; Republicans are not.  At a meeting of Canyon County’s Republicans prior to the primaries, each candidate stood and recited a mantra—I am pro-life, pro-second amendment, and pro-traditional marriage—before stating his or her other qualifications.  So it’s no surprise that people who care more about guns than schools vote Republican.  But it’s hard to believe that includes a majority of Canyon County.

There are many other explanations for continued Republican victories.  Loyalty, for one.  Many who recognize that the Republican Party has lost its balance choose to work to moderate the party.  Others simply like to identify with the winning side: a Boise district that was all-Republican for many years is now so Democratic that no Republicans are even running there this year.

Whatever the reason, it is not the quality of Idaho’s Democratic candidates.  Democrats run here because they care about people and want to strengthen jobs, schools, families, and communities.  It’s not an easy road to power; they don’t “inherit” victory from predecessors or fathers.  They are heroes in a battle for balance and democracy in Idaho.