Globe Gazette. Oct. 14, 2012.
Teachers (and kids) a great place for state investment
We have frequently extolled the importance of education, for the benefit of our children individually as they mature into adults, and for the future of our economy in particular and society in general.
Aside from parents and the students themselves, the group that plays the most important role in education is the teachers, and getting the best people involved in that profession is key to the success of our schools. Attention being paid to the profession now in Iowa could help us maintain that critical resource.
Gov. Terry Branstad has made education reform a priority since he returned to the Statehouse. This year he has promised to concentrate on teachers.
A Task Force on Teacher Leadership and Compensation was created by the Legislature last spring. The group, which included teachers and school administrators, released its report Thursday with 13 recommendations, including calling for increased starting pay, stipends for teachers who work in underserved but vital areas such as science and math, and creating a five-tier classification system from new teachers to seasoned masters with pay increases and increased mentoring duties along the steps.
The Iowa State Education Association, which represents teachers, had members on the 25-member task force, and has given tentative approval to the plan.
Jason Glass, the director of the Iowa Department of Education who Branstad recruited to help him with his education reform efforts, said the task force's proposal is aimed at retaining effective veteran teachers while making the profession more appealing to the state's "best and brightest."
"The top-performing education systems across the world share components of this plan," Glass said. "We've taken those ideas and weaved them together."
One stickler: If you are going to pay teachers more, then it's going to cost more. That's the kind of math concept that any first-grader should be able to comprehend.
"To reach the goals of what we're trying to accomplish, it will take investment," Glass said. "New dollars are necessary; we can't just repurpose existing funds."
Kent Mick, a Corwith-Wesley High School teacher who was on the task force, said members of the task force agreed that this couldn't just be a mandate "and then having the state say, 'but we're not giving you any dollars with it.' "
Mary Jane Cobb, the executive director of the Iowa State Education Association, said, "We have come up with new systems giving teachers, the true experts in the field, a stronger voice in the direction of their classrooms and their schools.
"Now it's the governor and the Legislature's job to fund the programs they have asked us to create and help move these recommendations forward."
Fortunately, the state received some other good news this past week. The state Revenue Estimating Conference projects that Iowa's strong economy will pump almost half a billion dollars more than previously expected into state coffers over the next two fiscal years.
That doesn't mean we should start on a spending spree, but it does give the state the opportunity to invest in areas that offer the promise of a good return.
One of those areas is our schools and teachers. The teacher task force recommendations provide a good starting point for efforts to revitalize the profession. An investment in them is an investment in our kids. And that's something we should all be able to get behind.
Sioux City Journal. Oct. 12, 2012.
Vexing illegal immigration challenge begs for open-mindedness
If you listen carefully, you occasionally will hear a reasoned, calm voice within all of the unreasoned, red-faced shouting so common to national discourse today.
Such was the case on Monday night when former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush spoke about immigration at the annual Siouxland Chamber of Commerce dinner.
As part of his blueprint for economic growth, Bush — who is considered a potential future presidential candidate — includes immigration reform. In Bush's view, reforms should include a way to untap the potential of undocumented immigrants who already live within our borders for economic reasons. Due to declining birth rates and the retirement of Baby Boomers, he said, America will need more immigrants to help fill future jobs.
"It's impossible for me to imagine a country that allows people to live in the shadows rather than maximizing their potential," Bush said.
We will withhold an opinion on Bush's full immigration plan until we read all the details, but we appreciate his contribution to the debate over this vexing issue. In our view, he offers valuable food for thought and asks for the kind of open-mindedness so crucial to a comprehensive solution.
Illegal immigration is a complicated subject with legal, social, security and, yes, economic ramifications. Unfortunately, as we see all too often on big issues of the day, Washington — reduced to near-paralysis by partisanship and intransigence — appears incapable of meeting this challenge.
The answer to our illegal immigration problem must address both the short- and long-term. It must be comprehensive and speak to undocumented immigrants already here, respect for the rule of law and strong border control. Deporting everyone isn't practical, but blanket amnesty with no strings attached isn't fair, either.
This problem begs for a middle-ground solution to which all sides must cede some turf for the greater good of the nation.
We believe Bush speaks to this reality.
Iowa City Press-Citizen. Oct. 14, 2012.
Karras' death a reminder to take injuries seriously
We were sad to hear about the death of Hawkeye all-American Alex Karras, who died Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 77. Karras had been suffering from kidney disease, heart disease, stomach cancer and dementia.
Karras was a two-time all-American for the Hawkeyes, a Heisman Trophy runner-up — unprecedented for a lineman — and the 1957 Outland Trophy winner. He was a first-round NFL draft pick of the Detroit Lions in 1958, where he played for 12 seasons. Karras then went on to a successful acting career, where he was best known for his role as Mongo in "Blazing Saddles." Other prominent roles came in "Victor Victoria" and "Porky's" and on the TV sitcom "Webster."
This year, Karras became a lead plaintiff in a complaint against the NFL by ex-players who claim the league didn't do enough to protect them from head injuries. He had been suffering from dementia and his wife recently said Karras' quality of life had been made worse because of head injuries sustained during his playing career.
"This physical beating that he took as a football player has impacted his life, and therefore it has impacted his family life," Susan Clark said earlier this year. "He is interested in making the game of football safer and hoping that other families of retired players will have a healthier and happier retirement."
Getting your bell run used to be considered just part of the game. Thankfully, though, attitudes are changing as more is learned about the long-term effects of head injuries, particularly concussions.
Earlier this year, the Big Ten Conference joined forces with the Ivy League to study the effects of head injuries, including concussions, by developing a network of sports medicine personnel to coordinate research.
Schools at all levels no longer take concussions lightly.
"People are starting to realize now that those big hits, as great as they used to look on ESPN or whatever highlights, are potentially damaging to a person's health," Marv Cook, who coaches football at Regina, told the Press-Citizen this summer. "I think people are starting to understand that it doesn't need to be a part of the game."
Cook refers to the three Rs — recognize, remove and recover — when handling concussions for his Regina team.
"Remove them from the field and then get them evaluated and make sure it's not serious," Cook said. "And if it is, you've got to give them time to recover and give them the necessary time to recover fully."
We may never know if Karras' NFL career played a part in his dementia, but while we honor Karras' life and achievements, we also hope that his legacy serves as a reminder to the NFL, as well as high school and college football programs, to continue striving to better protect players and advance the science of concussion management and treatment.
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Oct. 14, 2012.
Supervising Jell-O event not a community responsibility
Ever since a video surfaced that showed hundreds of Cedar Falls High School students at a teen-organized Jell-O wrestling event, there have been plenty of discussions and comments around the community. Many believe it was an inappropriate event. Another portion believes the entire situation is being blown way out of proportion.
There are legitimate elements of truth in both perceptions.
Perhaps the best result of the whole Jell-O wrestling blitz is that it has probably piqued the interest of many parents who were otherwise oblivious.
For sure, this is a parent/child issue. Even though district officials are showing plenty of concern, it's outside of their responsibilities.
Police, as well, say they can't do much about it. At least at this point. The students respected park hours and cleaned the area — and broke no laws. In past years, two arrests were made after two females reported being assaulted outside of the pool. Underage drinking and vandalism to vehicles were also reported in previous years.
We appreciate the fact that Cedar Falls police, in an attempt to be proactive, were on hand this year. Two officers were there for the nearly two-hour festivities at Birdsall Park. Others officers joined them later.
We assume a certain percentage of parents had no idea of the activities. Video has changed that.
"Jello Wrestling 2012 Highlights," posted by JelloXGames last week was removed from the website.
"My sense is there was a lot of peer pressure to take it down because a lot of parents were seeing their kids in less-than-flattering situations," said Cedar Falls High School Principal Rich Powers. "There are a lot of well-known students' faces in the middle of that. That's not the type of behavior our community wants, our schools want, our parents want."
From what was seen on the video, it could have been labeled "Jell-O punching," ''Jell-O hair-pulling" or "Jell-O shirt removal." In fact, the stated objective is to get the other girl's shirt off.
That may have been a small part, but the fact is, that's what's on the video that has been seen far and wide — taken in a public park where, theoretically, anyone could come up to spectate.
"A majority of students don't see an issue with it, and sadly, there are a number of parents that support the event and created Jell-O for it," Powers said. "I think it's all of our responsibilities to help them understand that they're objectifying women. They're demeaning and humiliating themselves. They may be popular for a moment, but that may quickly turn into embarrassment."
Powers called on the community to help approach the issue. So we will weigh in.
By having at least four police officers present at one time, we're now dipping into community resources for an event that many in the community would say shouldn't be happening in the first place — either by taking officers away from normal patrol duties, or paying to have others available solely for this event.
We appreciate the responsibility of cleaning up and respecting park hours. However, if this is going to be an annual event, supported by at least some Jell-O-making parents, there should be another responsibility:
Either provide and/or hire the security and supervision that is needed.