School choice isn't really a choice

Tanya Keith does the math: tax credits to support “school choice” would mainly help families who can afford to send their kids to private school anyway. -promoted by desmoinesdem

When I hear people talking about “school choice,” I wonder if they really know what’s involved in choosing a school that’s not your neighborhood public school. We knew we wanted our oldest of three kids to attend the Downtown School, an open enrollment school within Des Moines Public Schools, and we put her on the list before she was born. I was thrilled to learn that she made the list in Kindergarten, but I was naïve to the effort it would take to complete her education there.

We are raising the only grandchildren in a family where both grandmothers are experts in early childhood education, so I was willing to go the extra mile for a top quality education for my children. What I didn’t realize is I would be going the extra 12.2 miles, every day, all school year long. Our first five years, we drove 6.1 miles each way to get our child to school. Let’s do a little math with that:

12.2 miles x $.54 (the IRS mileage allowance for 2016) x 174 school days = $1,146.31

That’s one child at one school, but that’s not the end of the expense.

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Joni Ernst town hall: The overflow edition

Thanks to Stefanie Running for talking with Iowans who had hoped to question Senator Joni Ernst yesterday. -promoted by desmoinesdem

It was unusually warm for St. Patrick’s Day in Des Moines. Despite being spring break week for Drake University, the campus where Senator Joni Ernst chose to hold her town hall had remarkably little available parking. I arrived about 4:45 p.m., fifteen minutes prior to the start of the event, but was unable to join the throng inside; Sheslow Auditorium had reached capacity.

There were about 200 of us still outside, unsurprised but still disappointed. We were given the opportunity to fill out the question cards, the same as our comrades who made it inside. It was a consolation prize of sorts, knowing the questions wouldn’t be asked. A few people wrote their names and their questions, the rest either left or milled about. A few groups crowded around those who were playing live-streams the discussion on their phones.

I was able to speak to a handful of folks who had come to hear Ernst address their concerns, ask their own questions, or see if she actually engaged honestly.

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"Somebody else's babies"

Waterloo teacher John Grieder reflects on the “disgusting and disturbing” phrase now made famous by Representative Steve King. -promoted by desmoinesdem

So as many of you know I teach and I truly, regardless of any grumblings you may hear from me after a long day, love my job. And it’s because I love working with my students. I tremendously enjoy going to work and helping young people better understand our history, their place in the world and how to build a better future. And I fight every day to show my students that they can be whatever they set out to achieve so long as they are willing to work hard, persevere, and learn. I believe in my students, I believe in their futures, and I firmly believe that they can and will make Iowa and the United States a better place.

And my students and their families come from all over the world. I have students whose families have lived in Waterloo for decades and I have students whose families fled chaos and destruction within the last few months. I have students who have plenty and I have students with very little. And I say this not to garner sympathy or to paint a saintly picture of myself. Rather a say it because I want you to understand what a challenge the classroom can be and what hurdles face some of our students. But for all the challenges facing our children I firmly believe that they can be overcome. And I know, in my heart of hearts, that all of my students are capable of truly amazing, awe inspiring things because I see it in my classroom every single day.

So it was with an extremely heavy heart that I watched the events of the last few days unfold. And it all started, as apparently it will these days, with a tweet.

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Michael Bousselot for Congress in IA-02? I really don't think so.

Pat Rynard speculated yesterday about four possible GOP challengers to Representative Dave Loebsack in Iowa’s second Congressional district. Republicans spent very little money trying to unseat Loebsack last year but have signaled they plan to contest this race in 2018. House Democrats added Loebsack to their program for vulnerable incumbents.

Rynard didn’t mention Dr. Christopher Peters, who lost in IA-02 last year by less than 8 points despite getting in the race late and being outspent by a considerable margin. I expect Peters to run for Congress again in 2018.

For today, I want to focus on Governor Terry Branstad’s chief of staff Michael Bousselot, whom Rynard dubbed the “most interesting name to surface so far” as a possible challenger to Loebsack. “Were Branstad to put his political machine in to action for Bousselot […] the young staffer could quickly become the front-runner in a primary race where access to big donors is key,” he noted.

No doubt a lot of Republican money would get behind Bousselot if Branstad gave the word. But I can’t see this guy making a lot of headway against Loebsack.

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The ugly truth about school vouchers

Thanks to Kelly McMahon for cross-posting her letter to the editor about a policy goal for some influential Iowa Republicans. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Advertisements began airing on TV and radio stations across Iowa promoting the creation of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). The commercials use the typical conservative think-tank, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) message to sell them. Funders of the commercials don’t want Iowan’s to know what an ESA means to the future of Iowa’s public schools and to taxpayers.

In 2002, I moved from Iowa to teach for Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), the birthplace of school vouchers. In 1990 vouchers were sold as the panacea to the challenges of educating children in Milwaukee. The reality is that vouchers have done nothing to improve the quality of education for the nearly 30,000 students attending schools that are a part of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.

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GOP Senator Mark Chelgren still padding his educational resume

Republican State Senator Mark Chelgren has a history of grabbing headlines by filing unworkable bills or making offensive statements. This year, his attention-seeking behavior backfired in a big way.

Corky Siemaszko reported for NBC News yesterday that Chelgren’s official bio wrongly claimed he had a “business degree” from the “Forbco Management school.” In reality, Chelgren took a management course while working for the Sizzler restaurant chain. The story went viral, not just in Iowa.

Chelgren denied any “attempt to inflate” his resume. But although the Iowa Senate Republicans have removed any reference to the so-called business degree from their website, Chelgren’s corporate website still misleads regarding his college education.

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