The Following is a guest post written by Polk County GOP Co-Chair Chad Brown
County leadership is on the move all across the state of Iowa this year. The 2nd District Executive Committee became the third Iowa Congressional District to re-activate.
This meeting convened in Washington, Iowa, on the morning of June 8. Judy Davidson, Scott County Chair, was elected 2nd District Executive Committee Chairwoman with 18 votes, beating parliamentarian Don Racheter, who received 9 votes. The meeting lasted 1 hour 35 minutes and included the election of officers, approval of the proposed rules, discussion on the 2014 Caucuses, District Convention and State Convention, as well as discussing consistent statewide District rules and lastly organizational announcements.
â€œI thought we had great attendance,â€ said Davidson. â€œWe had 28 out of 51 current executive committee members attend our meeting on one of the first nice Saturdays this summer. I think it was a good event.â€
Personally, the re-activation of these D.E.C.â€™s is very near and dear to my heart. As Co-Chair of the most populated county in the state of Iowa, I understand the challenges that go along with my specific county organization. Also, as an active officer of the recently re-activated 3rd District Executive Committee, I have learned much about the challenges faced by those in my neighboring counties. This is due, in part, to meeting and speaking with leaders of other counties more often and getting to know them more closely than I had in the past. This is why District Executive Committees have traditionally provided a vital ingredient to the success of the Republican Party in Iowa. Their important role is detailed in the RPI Constitution.
Traditionally, the Republican Party is built as a grass roots Party that was always strong because it had a firm foundation and was built from the ground up. Unfortunately, the District Executive Committees were deactivated within recent years, and that vacuum was filled by powerful groups that dominated the leadership selection process by preventing Republican County leaders from talking to each other and promoting leadership from the grass roots. We want to restore the grass roots to the Republican Party and include more people.
Itâ€™s unfortunate that these long-standing Committees were deactivated and silenced, but the countiesâ€™ executive leadership in the districts are getting back to basics! â€œI think this morningâ€™s meeting went really well,â€ spoke Trudy Caviness of Wapello County. â€œOur goal was to organize 2nd District, and we accomplished our goal. Plus, I really liked how everyone was allowed to make announcements. I thought the additions to the rules were good. That shows people looked at the rules and read them.â€
Our District Executive Committees are here to improve and unify the Republican Party and get more people involved. This is an exciting time as we begin to restore an important tradition of grass roots to the Republican Party of Iowa. â€œI think itâ€™s so important to give information to the candidates and campaigns,â€ said Karen Fesler of Johnson County. â€œCandidates can now make one call and can get information on the county organizations and when and whereÂ the county central committee meetings are held.Â Itâ€™s a benefit to all of us to meet and work together. Anytime you can create another source for candidates, the media, committees, to get information about Republicans, itâ€™s another way to reach out to people and help our Party. This is a good thing.â€
â€œI see these D.E.C.â€™s as another resource in helping elect Republicans on the district-wide as well as statewide level,â€ added Caviness. Trudy Caviness was elected 2nd D.E.C. Co-Chair, and Karen Fesler was elected 2nd D.E.C. Secretary. Additionally, the body elected two at-large members for the Executive Committee.Â Matt Green was elected over Don Racheter for the first position. Don Racheter then ran and won against Wesley Westmorland on the second ballot to fill the second position. â€œI think it will be a good resource for any district-wide and statewide candidate,â€ continued Caviness. â€œI think that by working together, the county leadership will be a part of a group and be working for the same goal. In recent years there havenâ€™t been many opportunities for new Chairs and Co-Chairs to get together. This will give them the resource of giving new Chairs/Co-Chairs the shared knowledge from people who have been in their shoes. This will be a good support group for the counties.â€
Chad Brown, Polk County GOP Co-Chair and 3rd Congressional District Executive Committee Secretary
Though the U.S. Senate race in Iowa is only in the pre-natal stage the Des Moines Register hasnâ€™t wasted any time in displaying the partisan favoritism it has become infamous forâ€”an impressive feat given the race is only a few months old and has only a combined three candidates declared.
In the last month they have run two stories solely based on Democratic talking points, a practice they have failed to reciprocate for the other side, and flat-out offered no coverage of a significant Republican event.
The first instance occurred almost a month ago when, days after candidate Matt Whitaker announced on The Simon Conway Show, the Registerâ€™s Jennifer Jacobs published verbatim a full press-release from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee attacking Whitaker for comments he made on the program (http://blogs.desmoinesregister.com/dmr/index.php/2013/05/08/democrats-criticize-whitaker-for-pledging-to-vote-with-extremist-senators/article).Â In theory this practice is fine by meâ€”provided of course that as a â€œreputableâ€ statewide news organization they follow suit when the releases come from the other side of the aisleâ€¦I havenâ€™t seen this yet.
What makes this so damaging is that there is no shortage of releases from the DSCCâ€™s counterpart in Washingtonâ€”the National Republican Senatorial Committeeâ€”but they seem unable to merit the same ink.Â I routinely get these releases from the NRSC and if they are well sourced and fact based I occasionally run them.Â An example would be the following from yesterday:
June 5, 2013
Lawyer Speak: Braley Misleads Iowa Students…Says Student Loan Rates Must be Kept from Doubling, But Votes Against Legislation to Extend Lower Rates for Iowa Students
Bruce Braley isn’t fooling anyone. The slick former head of the trial lawyers association and liberal loyalist to Nancy Pelosi – in true trial lawyer fashion – is trying to fool Iowa voters yet again, this time about the rising cost of student loans.
Less than two weeks ago, Bruce Braley voted AGAINST a bill on the House floor that would have extended a lower rate for Iowa students’ loans. Bruce Braley might be able to fool a jury, but he can’t fool Iowans.
SHOT: @TeamBraley – Help @BruceBraley’s effort to keep college affordable by adding your name here…. #DontDoubleMyRate #IAProblemSolver
CHASER: Bruce Braley Voted Against A Bill To Extend A Lower Rate For Student Loans. â€œPassage of the bill that would tie student loan interest rates to the 10-year Treasury note rate. Interest rates on all federal student loans (except Perkins loans) issued on or after July 1, 2013 would be set each year at the 10-year Treasury note plus 2.5 percent. Rates for graduate and parent PLUS loans would be set at the 10-year note plus 4.5 percent. Overall interest rates would be capped at 8.5 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively.â€ (H.R. 1911, CQ Vote #183: Passed 221-198: R 217-8; D 4-190, 5/23/13, Braley Voted Nay)
If Bruce Braley was actually worried about student loan rates, why did he oppose a bill to prevent the rates from doubling for Iowa students in less than a month?Â Why is he hiding from his vote?
“Preventing student loan rates from crushing Iowa students who are already struggling should be an issue of bipartisan agreement in Washington, but Bruce Braley would rather politicize the issue than actually help the struggling middle class.Â Braley’s misleading trial lawyer speak is just the latest example of his slick attempt to fool the jury – Iowa voters.Â Iowans are too smart for that.”said NRSC Press Secretary Brook Hougesen.
The second example of this behaviorâ€”also from the aforementioned Jennifer Jacobsâ€”came just yesterday via a story on a â€œsnarkyâ€ website just launched by the Iowa Democratic Party.Â The website makes a pretty juvenile attempt at poking fun of newly declared Republican candidate David Young.Â You can check it out here if you wish (http://welcometoia.com/), but Iâ€™m not going to give it any more play.Â The point here is the story published by the Register gave this Democratic effort everything it wantedâ€”publicity and exposure.
Whatâ€™s Not News?
A further slap in the face to Republican candidate David Young was the paper not even covering his official campaign announcement last Saturday at a restaurant in Van Meterâ€”this is inconceivable.Â So to recap hereâ€”the Register canâ€™t find the time or personnel to cover the announcement of a serious Republican candidate for the United States Senateâ€¦but they have the time and space to promote a Democrat website created to mock him.Â Itâ€™s just ridiculous.
This is merely a continuation of blatant biasâ€”my all-time favorite was the Republican presidential endorsement debacleÂ from 2008, which if you havenâ€™t seen you need to click the link.Â The Registerâ€™s economic struggles of late have been well documented.Â Though I concede much of this is due to the struggle of integrating a web-based model, itâ€™s hard not to assume a portion of the problem is their distinct and continuing partisan slant.
What kind of business model rejects and insults the sensibilities of what amounts to nearly half of their potential customer base?Â Answer: A struggling one that will continue to be further marginalized unless they change course and offer some balance.
Soon after the final votes of the Iowa legislative session were taken late last week, many legislators from both Parties took to multiple media platforms trumpeting the â€œhistoricâ€ and â€œsweepingâ€ positive reforms they had just passed.Â I would love to fully concurâ€”and if I happened to be a Democrat I certainly wouldâ€”but as a Conservative Republican I am less than impressed with some of these â€œachievementsâ€.
Of the three major compromises reached I believe, at the most, Conservatives should be â€œsomewhat satisfiedâ€ by the understandable terms reached on tax reform and health insurance coverage.Â However, I am deeply disappointed by what has passed as â€œreformâ€ in Iowaâ€™s K-12 education system.Â The following will focus on education reform and later in the week we will deal with the tax and health insurance issues.
Making Appropriate Distinctions
In general I believe House and Senate Republicans grossly misread and under-valued the strength of their handâ€”particularly in dealing with education reform.Â In all fairness, the tax reform and health insurance issues had different dynamics surrounding them and this criticism applies less in these areas.
The reason for the differing standard in my mind on the tax and health insurance issues was that in these two areas inaction would have resulted in direct negative consequences for Iowansâ€”higher taxes and un-insured citizens.Â However, when it came specifically to public education reform the status-quo would not have concretely damaged anyoneâ€”a point made more painful by the likelihood the reforms that were passed will have no positive impact.
Just to be clear, I am making a key distinction between the public education reforms and the home schooling reforms contained in the bill.Â I strongly support any action that makes it easier for homeschoolers to operate and expandâ€”and I do not necessarily begrudge them for supporting this reform as a means to achieve it.Â The real tragedy here is the sad construct in which this group has to â€œbuyâ€ these reforms by supporting increased money for an ever-expanding and shamefully ineffective education leviathan.Â The truth is the vast majority of home schooling families pay taxes to support a system which they often-wisely opt out ofâ€”and then ironically proceed to outperform while simultaneously funding.
Public Education Reform
The best way to go about exposing this bill as the completely ineffective piece of legislation I believe it to be is by asking 6 simple questions.Â Since we as taxpayers will be spending an additional $160 million dollars a year, answering these questions shouldnâ€™t be too much to askâ€”unfortunately I have a strong suspicion that even those who voted for it canâ€™t provide many answers.
1.Â How and when will we know this reform has worked?
By this I mean what specific metric or metrics can be looked at to prove this reform has or hasnâ€™t worked?Â Additionally what date on the calendar will we be able to make this assessment?Â At a minimum Republicans should of asked these questions and demandedÂ the answers be written into the bill.Â Surely this isnâ€™t too much to ask for.
2. Why didnâ€™t the 35.4% increase in K-12 education spending (an additional $650 million) that we have had since 2002 produce any positive results?
A seemingly common-sense question to ask I would say.Â It would be one thing if this reform came on the heels of us having starved the system of money for decadesâ€”but this simply isnâ€™t the case.Â What specifically did this massive increase (including 4% allowable growth every year under Gov. Culver) in spending since 2002 go to?Â Was it supposed to raise test scores?â€”I hope not because if so it clearly didnâ€™t.
3. Are we to honestly believe that every member of the Iowa House (91-0) and 80% of the Iowa Senate (40-10) looked at this legislation and all independently concluded it would deliver fantastic results?Â And further that these results would justify spending an additional $160 million a year?
I fully understand the concept of compromising, and that doing so will deliver a more bi-partisan roll callâ€”but letâ€™s be serious here.Â Anytime Ako Abdul-Samad and Tom Shaw are voting together on a major reform that spends hundreds of millions of dollars and affects every child in Iowa we have to be skeptical.Â Unless Iâ€™m missing something I see only two possible reasons for thisâ€”and neither are good.Â One is that many out of town members just wanted to go home (which I doubt), and two is that so many random offerings were made by both sides it was just palpable enough for each caucus to vote for (which I believe).Â If so, this approach will never result in a meaningful, affordable, and wise solution.
4. Why does it continue to be acceptable not to evaluate teachers, at least in part, by the actual results they achieve in a classroom over the course of a school year?Â And what kind of people refuse to stop the practice of passing 3rd graders on to the next grade when they canâ€™t even read?Â And whose interest are they honestly serving in doing so?
The answers in order are: the teachers union, disgraceful ones, and their own.Â This is where true education reform lies and the fact Republicans can only get a â€œstudy councilâ€ on teacher evaluation is absurdâ€”too mad to expound on any further.
5. How were teachers able to have such high-performance in the late 1980â€™s and mid-90â€™s and not in the 2000â€™s and beyond?
In the early 90â€™s Iowa led the nation in reading and math scoresâ€”but those days are long gone.Â Today we face disturbing realities like this oneâ€”only 3 other states in the nation (2 of which are in the Deep South) have less 8th graders enrolled in some form of advanced math by grade 8.Â Furthermore, the performance of minority students in math at this level is alarmingly low and trials other students by up to 30%.
During this debate we have heard a lot about starting teacher pay in Iowa.Â While this is an important number, lost in shuffle is the fact that the average teacher salary in Iowa has increased from $36,480 in 2001 to $49,622 in 2010.Â The teachers union will say this steep increase was due to the fact Iowa teachers were among the lowest paid in the late 90â€™s-early 2000â€™s and this in part is true.Â But then I ask: if they were among the lowest paid and salary equates to performanceâ€”how could they possibly have had Iowa kids achieving at such a high level?Â Also, the fact remains they saw a large increase in pay and responded with flat-lining and worsening performance.Â By the way, if the teacher’s union is ready to start blaming the kids or their parents for worsening test scores Iâ€™m ready to listen.
6. Why does â€œreformâ€ always mean spending more money?Â Why canâ€™t it ever be spending the same amount of money but in a smarter wayâ€”or even (gasp) spending less?
Maybe someday we will try it…I bet it would be just as effective if not more so.
Though controlling only the Senate and not having the House or the Governorâ€™s officeâ€”Democrats got well over half of what they were after with this bill and have to be privately ecstatic.Â They managed to get additional money both for 1st year and veteran teachers, 4% allowable growth this year and next, and have again avoided being evaluated on their actual results.Â Republicans should and couldÂ have done much betterâ€”and if they couldnâ€™t they should have done nothing.
And the final insultâ€”I canâ€™t be the only one who sees the irony that we apparently have to create â€œcareer pathwaysâ€ with increased pay for our not-so-good teachers to be taught by other teachers how to teach betterâ€¦and this is after the not-so-good teacher already graduated from a college that apparently did a not-so-good job teaching them how to teach in the first place.Â A sign of the times I guess…
With a sweeping education reform package currently being worked on by a bi-partisan Conference Committee at the Statehouse, some potentially damaging information about how the state is representing student achievement is coming to light.Â Late last week the citizen group Iowalive released a report that would, if true, give all Iowa parents and legislators cause for grave concern.
The crux of the report is Iowalive’s claim that the standards our Department of Education is using to report student proficiency levels is misleading.Â This, according to the group, stems from Iowa having adopted a lower standard to measure student learning called the “40th National Percentile Rank”.Â This current set of standards was adopted a decade ago by the then Governor Vilsack administration and is different from a more “honest” standard used by other states known as the “65th National Percentile Rank”.Â The 40th National Percentile Rank standards that we use now apparently do not actually require a student to be proficient in various skills at their grade level to be deemed as such.Â The obvious problem here being that if this is the case, parents are being told their child is succeeding at their grade level when in fact they are not.Â If true this is absolutely unacceptable.
Between long declining national education rankings, the misrepresenting of graduation rates at some Des Moines High Schools, and the entire Nancy Sebring debacle–the education system here in Iowa hasn’t exactly built a huge reservoir of trust recently.Â Despite this, and despite the fact spending on K-12 has increased $650 million since 2002 (+35.4%), the legislature is potentially poised to yet again increase the dollars flowing into this institution by almost $200 million any day now.Â If the claims of Iowalive have any merit it’s long past the time to say enough is enough–the river of funds needs to be damned until the system functions honestly and properly.
More To Come
This issue will be looked into further by this website in the coming weeks, including a specific explanation of the two sets of standards.Â At first glance the source–Iowalive–appears to be legitimate group with expertise in education and statistics (I was unfamiliar with them prior to late last week).Â In the meantime I encourage you to visit their website (link here), and become informed on their general claims.Â If everything they say checks out, this level of brazen misrepresentation and deception to Iowa parents will be a massive outrage.Â If a teacher tells a parent their child is performing “at a 3rd grade level” in a subject, that better mean exactly that–anything else would be totally unacceptable.
Without a doubt Iowa legislators from both parties and both chambers should demand an explanation from Jason Glass and the Department of Education.Â If it turns out they have been “cooking the books” with a deliberately low standard to enhance our schools perceived performance, then the reform bill currently being discussed should be tabled immediately.
Below is an excerpt from the Iowalive report, here is a link to the report complete with tables and source data, and more can be found at their website.Â Though the information is not presented in a lively way, these are serious charges that demand being responded to by our elected and unelected government officials.Â We as Iowans must have answers on this very, very soon.
GROSS MISREPRESENTATION OF % OF IOWA STUDENTS, THEÂ DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION REPORTED PROFICIENT
Greetings, Governor Terry Branstad and allâ€”
Finally, at 3:34 PM, Friday May 10, (to make it nearly impossible to make the Sunday Papers) the Department of Education provided Percent Proficient data Iowalive requested on Jan.14, 2013.Â The data would not have been provided at all except for prodding from State senators and the State Ombudsmanâ€”who are gratefully thanked for their help.
As shown in the table below, the Department of Education reported to parents, students, legislators, taxpayers and others that 74.4% of Iowa 4th graders are ReadingÂ Proficiently (Expertly) at the 4th grade level, when in fact the Department of Education just admitted onlyÂ 40.3% are actually reading at the 4th grade level, when tested.Â This equates to an 85% inflation, or misrepresentation, of student achievementâ€”perpetrated by use of the bogus 40th NationalÂ Percentile Rank (NPR) Proficiency standard, adopted by the Department of Education, under Governor Vilsack and the ISEAÂ teacher union.
Similarly, the table shows parents, students, legislators, taxpayers andÂ others were told 78.2% of Iowa 4th graders are doing Math Proficiently (Expertly) at the 4th grade level, when in fact the Department of Education just admitted onlyÂ 40.1% are actually doing Math at the 4th grade level, when tested.Â This equates to a 95% inflation or misrepresentation of student achievement.
Similar misrepresentations for 8th and 11th grade reading and math are shown in the table.Â It must be stated that the DepartmentÂ of Education made NO corrections for cheating, as if none exists, despite gross cheating already under investigation in Davenport.
The problem is: Iowaâ€™s low 40th NPR â€˜proficiencyâ€™ standard considers 4th graders scoring at the 3.1 Iowa grade level to be â€˜proficientâ€™ or expert 4th grade readers!Â Similarly, Iowaâ€™s low standard considers 8th graders scoring at the 6.9 Iowa grade level to be â€™proficientâ€™ or expert 8th grade readers, and 11th graders scoring at the 9.2 level to be “proficient” or expert 11 grade readers.Â The same applies to Math–and all grades tested.Â This is nearly double the number actually Proficient.Â And it is going on in grades 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, & 10 as well.
Large Iowa media news editors have failed, and stubbornly refuse, to report these shameful, if not outright fraudulent,Â conditions to Iowans.
Governor Branstad, youâ€™re a lawyerâ€”if this misrepresentation isnâ€™t fraudulent, what is??Â What are you going to do about it?Â This happened on your watchâ€”even though it started under Governor Vilsack!Â Â DE Director, Jason Glass, could have stopped using the bogus 40th NPR Proficiency Standard and replaced it with the honest 65th NPR, but he did not, Governor.Â How come?
(Read Report With Tables)
(The following is a guest piece from Polk County GOP Co-Chair Chad Brown)
The political season in Iowa never ends, and the county leadership of Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District is on the move to organize. The harder we work to organize the counties, both Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District and RPI will grow in strength. Some of my activist friends have wanted an explanation of the District Executive Committees, so I wrote this explanation to detail their role.
District Executive Committees have traditionally been a vital ingredient to the success of the Republican Party in Iowa. Their important role is detailed in the RPI Constitution. Traditionally, the Republican Party is built as a grass roots Party that was always strong because it had a firm foundation and was built from the ground up. Unfortunately, the District Executive Committees were deactivated within recent years and that vacuum was filled by powerful single issue groups that dominated the leadership selection process by preventing Republican County leaders from talking to each other and promoting leadership from the grass roots. We want to restore the grass roots to the Republican Party and include more people. This is why people used to refer to the G.O.P. as The Big Tent.
It’s unfortunate that these long-standing Committees were deactivated and silenced, but the new counties’ executive leadership in the 3rd Congressional District are getting back to basics!Â We are here to improve and unify the Republican Party and get more people involved. The executive leadership of the county-level central committees of the Republican Party of Iowa located within the Third Federal Congressional District of the State of Iowa have called for its first official meeting to be held on May 7 to discuss and consider certain specific matters.
This is an exciting time as we begin to restore an important tradition of grass roots to the Republican Party in Iowa.
Chad Brown, Polk County GOP Co-Chair and 3rd Congressional District Executive Committee ————————————————————————————————-
Article VII, paragraph 1 of the RPI Constitution states:
Article VII District Executive Committees
1. The District Executive Committee shall consist of the Chair and Co-Chair of each County in the Congressional District plus one additional representative for every fifty thousand (50,000) population in that County based on the most recent federal census. The additional County representative sh…all be elected by the County Central Committee.
2. The District Committee shall: (1) direct and coordinate Republican activities in the district, including organizational, candidate recruitment, and finance efforts; (2) coordinate the congressional and legislative campaigns in the district for the duly selected Republican nominees; (3) perform all of the duties relating to any election to fill a district vacancy on the Republican State Central Committee; (4) advise the congressional district’s representatives on the Republican State Central Committee; and (5) do all other things which serve to promote the welfare of the Republican Party and the orderly and successful conduct of the election campaign in the congressional district.