- Associated Press - Monday, May 9, 2016

Des Moines Register. May 5, 2016

‘Gap year’ may improve college success.

About 3.3 million students are expected to graduate from U.S. high schools this year. One of President Barack Obama’s daughters is among them. On Sunday, the White House announced Malia will not go directly to college. She is taking a so-called “gap year” after graduation and will attend Harvard University in the fall of 2017.

The two-sentence statement from the Office of the First Lady provides no information about why Malia is delaying college or what she plans to do. However, waiting until her father is out of office means she will not be accompanied on campus by a Secret Service contingent, which typically includes a small team of heavily armed agents for family members of a sitting president.

Her decision has sparked fresh discussion about the idea of young people taking a hiatus from formal education after high school. There is no shortage of speculation and opinion on the issue. Of course whether it’s a good idea depends on the individual young person. And it is difficult to deny that many of them - for whatever reason - are not ready for college. The statistics on “persistence” cannot be ignored.

About 30 percent of students who started college in the fall of 2013 did not return to any U.S. college in the fall of 2014, according to the most recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Think about that. Nearly one in three students. They didn’t transfer to a different school. They didn’t go back.

In Iowa, only about 40 percent of students who enter a four-year public college graduate in four years. Less than 70 percent graduate in six years.

The millions of Americans who start college but don’t finish may be worse off than those who never attended. Many have student loans to repay with no college degree to secure a higher paying job. They may have fallen behind their peers in obtaining work experience. Potential employers may perceive them as unable to finish what they start. Worst of all, they may perceive themselves as failures.

Yet our society encourages everyone leaving high school to immediately embark on a new educational endeavor because that is key to earning a decent living. Most parents can’t stomach the idea of an able-bodied, adult child lounging on the couch playing video games for months. If graduates aren’t academically or emotionally prepared, some parents still push them and hope for the best.

But not immediately attending college may be exactly what some young people need. Working 40 hours a week in a minimum-wage job can do wonders to help someone understand the value of higher education. It buys extra time for their brain to develop. It may improve their chances of staying in school and earning a degree. And isn’t that the point?___

Quad-City Times. May 5, 2016

Lawmakers came, saw, did little.


The all-too-familiar thump could be heard Friday night from Davenport to Sioux City as the Iowa Legislature gaveled out of another unproductive session.

Lawmakers faced consistent school funding shortfalls, serious water quality issues and a paradoxical medical marijuana program that criminalizes users heading into the 2016 term. And, after the Legislature skipped town, they are all still hanging there waiting for a fix.

Early on, it appeared the Republican House and Democratic Senate had learned from the wasted 2015 term. School funding discussions began straight away. A deal was hammered out in relative short order. Other back-burner issues could, feasibly, get hammered out with the time left.

Just maybe lawmakers would this year earn that $25,000 annual salary and $148 per-diem taxpayers shell out.

Both houses were in a rush to get a basic school-funding compromise framed out. The issue, after all, had produced 2015’s do-nothing session. So they bickered. And, to the credit of lawmakers, grappled with the troublesome topic straight away. But few think the 2.25 percent increase for education funding will offset rising costs in K-12 education.

Don’t even ask about the inequity in school funding that values some students over others. A half-baked one-off surfaced in the House in the session’s waning days, which would have only exacerbated the problem. The rush-job died an unceremonious death during budget negotiations.

At least with educational funding generally hashed out, lawmakers could face other issues that, for too long, have collected dust.

Progress is, apparently, too much to ask in Des Moines, where the Committee on Can Kicking always has a full agenda.

Gov. Terry Branstad’s water quality funding plan met immediate resistance. Democrats and educational lobbyists panned the deal as a rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul gimmick. House Republicans floated a seemingly reasonable plan that would apply an existing tax on drinking water to solving the state’s nitrate problem. Senate Democrats mulled a sales tax hike, which was doomed from conception in an election year.

Nothing moved.

Calling Iowa’s cannabidiol law busted would be an understatement. An epileptic can use the marijuana extract in Iowa. But purchasing or possessing the oil remains a crime. A lot of air was spent debating the exercise in bad logic. Lawmakers even rolled out a last-minute proposal to permit patients to buy the extract in neighboring states. It went nowhere.

Still, Iowa criminalizes those who, under state law, should have access to marijuana treatment.

To be fair, a few things got done.

At least gun-rights advocates can claim a victory. They got their long-sought gun suppressor legalization. Priorities, indeed.

The Legislature’s bolstered oversight of Branstad’s newly privatized Medicaid system, assuming the governor doesn’t veto the line item, was a rare victory for substance.

But, as a whole, the session’s major priorities went unaddressed. That fact shouldn’t shock anyone. Real issues come up. Real issues get tabled. It’s the mode of operation at the Iowa Statehouse.

After all, there’s always next year.___

Mason City Globe Gazette . May 5, 2016

Turns out, Iowa GOP got it right.

It seems so long ago, and it probably is for the former Republican candidates for president.

On Feb. 1, Iowa Republicans who attended the first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses made Ted Cruz the winner followed by Donald Trump. And observers anointed Marco Rubio as the up-and-comer with lots of momentum for his third-place finish.

Well, it is now May 5 and, with most of the primaries and caucuses in the books, Trump is the GOP’s nominee in waiting after his thrashing of Ted Cruz in Tuesday’s primary in Indiana sent the Texas senator packing. (Word is he had made up his mind Monday but wanted to see if a miracle might occur Tuesday. It didn’t.)

So now, preparations for the battle against Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, are in full swing in Republican ranks, although we expect there will be plenty of hooting and hollering about the Trumpster - maybe even some dirty tricks - in preparation for the Republican convention July 18-21 in Cleveland.

There certainly was plenty of hooting and hollering right after the Iowa caucuses. Much of it was about the massive, bloated Republican field and how one of those 16 would certainly knock Trump out of the race (although it seems he may never be out of the spotlight.)

Many deeply rooted conservatives hoped it would be Cruz, who certainly got a boost from Iowa’s staunch conservative corps. Other looked to Jeb Bush as the next in the family to ascend to the presidency following a more moderate path.

But one by one, they fell out of the race. Bush, once the apparent golden boy, got out early, saying the voters had spoken (not to mention that Trump was mighty tough on him).

Ben Carson hung on a bit longer, and John Kasich, the Ohio governor, lasted longer than anyone. Now, he’s being mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate for Trump because of his popularity in the key swing state of Ohio.

The others can only hope to remain somewhat relevant. They were, in case you forgot, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindahl, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Scott Walker. And, of course, there was talk of drafting Mitt Romney to try to knock off Trump, but that talk has faded just like the other candidates.

We also have to mention the talk about Iowa being irrelevant in the political process. Too small, they called us; too white; too conservative; too this and too that. Mostly, party officials in bigger states were jealous, we think, and wanted the spotlight on their states.

Well, Iowa Republicans sorted through it all, did their homework and ended up picking what would be the top two remaining candidates from the huge field. Not bad for a state that a lot of people say doesn’t matter.

You’re welcome, America. We’ll see you next time.___

Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier . May 6, 2016

Too little effort on bullying.

Iowa’s fight to end the scourge of bullying within its borders took a step backward this year.

After three consecutive sessions of discussion and near-passage of a bill to strengthen state anti-bullying law during the last session, the Legislature this year virtually ignored the issue.

Iowa’s children deserve better.

Last year, momentum was building for action on bullying. Gov. Terry Branstad supported the anti-bullying bill during the legislative session, then later in the year issued an executive order through which he created the Governor’s Office for Bullying Prevention at the University of Northern Iowa. The state Senate passed the anti-bullying bill, 43-7. Anti-bullying leaders in education supported the bill.

Iowans overwhelmingly supported the effort. In a February 2015 Des Moines Register poll, 73 percent of Iowans answered “favor” to the following question: “Do you favor or oppose authorizing school personnel to react to bullying by notifying parents and disciplining students even when the incident takes place away from school, including through social media?”

Only the state House stood in the way of significant additional protection for victims of bullying.

Creation by Branstad of the Governor’s Office for Bullying Prevention struck us as a valuable contribution to this dialogue, but we believe strengthening state law remains the most effective way to protect Iowa children from bullying.

We supported last year’s anti-bullying bill largely because we believed it would address the pervasive problem of cyberbullying - tormenting, threatening, harassing or embarrassing someone using the Internet or other technologies, like cell phones - in effective fashion. We were hopeful this year would be the year in which anti-bullying legislation reached the finish line.

It’s unclear to us why, exactly, the issue fell from the Legislature’s radar screen. In what would be an ironic twist, perhaps creation of the Governor’s Office for Bullying Prevention, in effect, suppressed legislative action because lawmakers felt the office solved the problem. Through the office, Branstad sought to meet some provisions of failed anti-bullying legislation.

However, Branstad didn’t direct funds to the office in his budget recommendation for the next fiscal year and the Legislature appropriated no money for the office.

In other words, this year produced no bill and no money to combat bullying.

The result? An important issue was, it appears, simply forgotten.

That’s disappointing. And unacceptable.

We will continue our support for stronger anti-bullying laws in Iowa. We will do so until this state properly meets its responsibility to stamp out an ugly problem no student should have to experience.___

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