Iowa Senate Race is Pretty Farmin’ Serious

Politically, Iowa remains one of our most interesting states. Obviously, its early caucus status lends itself as a power player in presidential politics. But its makeup is also rather vexing and seemingly unpredictable at times, featuring successes for both Republicans and Democrats — and the longevity of its Senators Chuck Grassley (R) and Tom Harkin (D), who’ve been in office since 1981 and 1985, respectively.

With Harkin retiring, there’s a heated race for his vacated seat featuring Rep. Bruce Braley (D) and State Senator Joni Ernst (R). (I actually interacted often with Braley’s staff during his 2006 campaign, while I was working on a State House race in Waterloo for U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh’s All-America PAC.) Braley, however, has found himself trudging through difficult terrain in light of some unfortunate and dismissive agriculture-related gaffes — the latest in a stump speech by a surrogate. Columnist Kathie Obradovich of The Des Moines Register highlighted Braley’s problems, illustrating how some unfortunate word choices here and there can quickly change the nature of a political campaign.

Below, you’ll find an ad where Ernst attempts to capitalize by relaying her hog castrating bona fides, because… pork. (I like the snuggly pig embrace 20 seconds in, personally.)

Oh yes, it’s campaign season, America. Let’s get hog wild! (I’ll show myself out.)

Less Time in School? You Have to be Kidding

The article we’re going to link to at the end of this post is from the Des Moines Register, generally regarded as a strong newspaper. The author, Staci Hupp, is a former education reporter for the Indianapolis Star who did an admirable job covering education issues while here in Indiana. (Both are Gannett publications, but we’ll save the fate of newspapers for another day.)

Staci writes a thorough story explaining why an Iowa school district wants a waiver to go to a four-day school week. Money is driving the move, with past questionable budgets and a bookkeeping error putting the district in financial trouble.

While saving money is good, this isn’t the proper route. The absolute most important two sentences of this story are the last two (at least in the online version; we’re sure the research box was a more prominent sidebar in print). They read: 

"Students in Asia and Europe typically attend school an average of 220 days a year. The U.S. average is 180 days, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures."

We can’t afford less classroom time. We’re already falling behind the rest of the world in educational achievement, particularly in the math and science areas.

Iowa, and Indiana, are at that 180-day figure. There are several bills in the Indiana General Assembly that, while not taking the four-day-a-week approach, would also dilute the education effort. The focus should be on more dollars to the classroom, expanding school choice and more. Instead, we’re fighting back gimmicks that would serve no useful purpose and, in fact, prove detrimental to our competitiveness and our young people’s futures.

Here’s the Iowa story. Read to the end as it also references a previous IU study that disputes the potential savings.