23 January 2014

Sen. Ron Johnson on expanding Iranian Sanctions inspite of the

We've got hard headed politicians in office who easily could be accused of megalomania.  But part of the problem is our own conditioned response that if someone changes his/her position on an issue he/she has waffled and is not firm in his/her beliefs.  Unfortunately that's absolutely ludicrous.  

As many of us know, sometimes being wrong is the most rewarding realization.  We cannot always be right and when new evidence is provided we ought to be willing to alter our perceptions.  Iran and America could be on the verge of re-establishing diplomatic ties.  The November 24th agreement is a step in the right direction toward peace.  The alternative is to strike the deal and impose more sanctions.

Sen. Johnson is one who seems unwilling to change his position.  Maybe he's scared about being labeled a 'waffler', maybe he truly believes Iran is the archenemy - the frontier of the new cold war - or maybe he doesn't have a clue and doesn't want to have a clue.  Maybe he just wants to walk the party line.  Whatever his motivation, his animosity toward the Iranian government pours out in this response to my recent letter and it overrides any possibility for peace.

Dear William,
Thank you for contacting me regarding Iran, their nuclear program, and the question of the United States implementing stricter sanctions on their government.
I fully support holding the Iranian government accountable for their ongoing efforts that destabilize the Middle East, and for their words and actions that continue to threaten America and the rest of the world.
Last congress, I was proud to support S.2101, The Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Human Rights Act, which passed the Senate on a bipartisan voice vote.  The bill enhances America's resolve to impose sanctions on Iran for their continued pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and for its ongoing human rights abuses.  By approving S.2101, Congress spoke with one loud and clear voice to impose strong economic sanctions against Tehran and penalties for those who knowingly choose to do business with the Iranian government.
I also joined 82 of my colleagues in co-sponsoring Senate Joint Resolution 41.  This resolution expressed the sense of Congress regarding the Iranian government's nuclear program. Unfortunately, Iran has defied the international community by continuing to pursue nuclear weapons.  If the Iranian regime continues down this path, America and her allies will be left with few options to prevent a nuclear Iran. 
Defending our nation is a top priority of the federal government. We live in a dangerous world and face a number of threats both at home and abroad.  The despotic Iranian government represents one of the greatest threats to world peace as they continue their efforts of acquiring nuclear weapons.    Maintaining the strongest possible sanctions and leaving all options on the table - including military - is the best way to persuade the Iranians to abandon their nuclear ambitions. 
Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts.  It is important for me to hear the views and concerns of the people I serve  Please feel free to contact me in the future if I can further assist you or your family.  It is an honor representing you and the good people of Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate.


Ron Johnson
United States Senator

Letter to Rep. Dale Kooyenga

The Republican led state legislature in Wisconsin has written a bill, AB 549, expanding charter schools in much the same way the legislature last year expanded voucher schools.  Creating new schools may provide more choices for parents but it provides no new options.  The startup cost and productivity of new schools is much like planting a new service berry bush: little yield in the first few years of growing.  New schools struggle to find a footing in neighborhoods and many fail altogether. Studies indicate that our attention could be better spent improving leadership and providing more training opportunities for teachers.   

Representative Kooyenga,

While I appreciate your ambition to remodel our current educational landscape in the hope of raising educational outcomes, I cannot help but think that AB 549 might be a bit off track. 

While creating more schools could result in smaller class sizes and additional alternatives for parents, the bill seems to neglect some key data.  Each new school that opens starts from scratch meaning they are overwhelmed.  It takes a few years for a school to find its footing.

Study after study indicate that high quality schools are effective places of learning, first, because of the leadership.  A good principal stimulates enthusiasm in the staff and prompts deeper commitment.  Second, study after study indicate the next key contributor is the teacher.  Just one year with a good teacher leads to enduring effects that can alter the trajectory of a student's life.

It has become common practice across the US to attack teachers as the focal point for the flat line our educational system seems to have reached.  Yet our country as a whole does little to address why this might be the case.  Instead the solution offered is to expand the possible options of private/public schools for parents to enroll their students with very little attention on teacher training, continuing education, or retention.

Comparing the US to other countries, like Singapore, Japan, S. Korea, Finland, etc. one common denominator in each of these high achieving countries is the treatment of teachers.

Colleges of education in these countries recruit the finest and brightest of graduating high schoolers.  They focus training on developing a thoroughly strong knowledge of the subjects future teachers will teach, ensure that field work and teaching practice is extensive, and upon placement compensate them well (but compensation is less important than some would have us believe).

All of the highest achieving countries utilize centralized authorities as curriculum designers.  That is to say, there is a core curriculum that each student is responsible for meeting.  Teachers are provided ample time to plan and coordinate lesson planning with other teachers based on common learning objectives that need to be met in every school across the country.  Because of an accepted core curriculum, other countries have far less difficulty handling transient students.

In China, there's a common curriculum for the first two years of senior high school and more flexibility in the third year.  This means that no matter which school a student attends or if that student moves to another school, that student picks up right where he/she left off because every school will be at about the same place in the curriculum given a specific time of year.  This would be especially helpful in bigger districts like Milwaukee and Madison where student mobility is a troubling issue.

Good teachers across the globe are motivated and enthusiastic.  Keep in mind, most teachers are not entering the field because of money.  They do it because of the calling.  But even the initial excitement of the calling can wear thin.  In Japan, for the first three years of a new teacher's career, he/she is assigned a mentor teacher who helps guide the teacher through the struggles of those first years.  They've recognized that on average teachers burn out within the first five years.  To combat burn out, not just in Japan but in a plethora of countries, districts provide myriad supports including mentors, aides, parent volunteers, and continuing education options.  Teacher education doesn't end after graduation from university.

Another commonality is that evaluation of teachers is not treated as a summative assessment that could lead to dismissal or cuts in pay, but as a formative assessment that leads to open communication between the teachers and administration.  The methodology of evaluation is based on improving the teaching rather than pointing out what the teacher did poorly.  And the assessment is based on not only student achievement but student attitude as well as the teacher's hard work, commitment, and motivation.

These are changes we could implement across Wisconsin without the initial pains of startup schools, without the loss of funding for existing schools, and with a greater emphasis on creating better schools for all our kids with highly qualified and effective teachers.

I appreciate your service, Representative Kooyenga, and hope you'll take some of my suggestions seriously because what we do today will determine what happens tomorrow.

Thank you for your time.


No response as of 22 January 2014