An open letter to Iowa Republican legislators

A UNI faculty member explodes three “alternative facts” supporting the Republican case for shredding collective bargaining rights. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Let me introduce myself. I’m Chris Martin, a professor at the University of Northern Iowa. Please let me disabuse you of the notion that I worked just a couple hours today and spent the rest of the time sipping chardonnay. I’m like most Iowans. I work a lot (faculty members at my university average 52-54 hours a week), I have a family I love, I pay taxes, I vote, and I volunteer for my community.

I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I’m very good at my job. I’ve taught at UNI for 20 years, and I’m nationally known in the field of journalism and mass communication. I am a Fulbright Scholar and a recipient of the State of Iowa’s Board of Regents Award for Faculty Excellence – the state’s highest honor for university professors – and several other awards. I’m a public employee and member of the faculty union.

Because I’m a journalism professor, I can’t help but provide some needed fact-checking on several issues concerning Iowa’s collective bargaining law and the bills that seek to undermine it. I’ll speak to the collective bargaining tradition at the University of Northern Iowa, where the faculty have bargained peacefully and fairly with the Board of Regents for 40 years.

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Republicans deliver worst month ever to Iowa students and educators

For all their talk about helping Iowa provide a “world class” and “globally competitive” education, Iowa Republicans are unwilling to provide the resources public schools need to keep up with rising costs.

And for all their talk about getting “better teachers in the classroom” and giving “hardworking teachers … all the tools necessary to succeed,” Iowa Republicans seem determined to discourage people from pursuing a teaching career in this state.

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Don't panic: Iowa House Education chair doesn't want to abolish tenure

State Senator Brad Zaun’s bill to prohibit “the establishment or continuation of a tenure system” has worried many people who understand how badly that policy would harm Iowa’s state universities. Wisconsin Republican lawmakers spurred an exodus of highly-regarded faculty from that state’s top university, and the Wisconsin law to weaken tenure didn’t go nearly as far as Zaun’s bill would.

Fortunately, the bill seems unlikely to clear the Iowa House Education Committee–if it even gets that far.

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Higher education would take a huge hit in Branstad's budget

While delivering his final condition of the state address to Iowa lawmakers on Tuesday, Governor Terry Branstad warned that he was offering “difficult” recommendations to cover a shortfall of more than $100 million in the current-year budget. His speech played up the good news: “My proposal does not include across-the-board cuts, does not reduce funding for K through 12 education, does not reduce property tax credits and does not include furloughs for state employees.”

The bad news was buried deep in a 196-page two-year budget blueprint. Nearly a third of the governor’s proposed spending cuts this year would fall on Iowa’s public universities and community colleges. The underfunding doesn’t stop there.

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Shorter Paul Pate: Iowa elections clean, but let's make it harder for people to vote

Following the standard Republican playbook, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate announced a series of steps today that would make it harder for thousands of Iowans to exercise their right to vote. He produced no evidence of any fraud problems his proposals would solve, which isn’t surprising, because Iowa is already one of the most highly-rated states for electoral integrity.

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Weekend open thread: Good tsar, bad advisers edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

A bunch of Iowa primary election previews are in the works to post between now and Tuesday. Still trying to decide on my last few guesses for the latest Bleeding Heartland election prediction contest.

Meanwhile, the Iowa Board of Regents will meet this week to discuss, among other things, how to handle the upcoming search for a University of Northern Iowa president and whether to approve a staff recommendation on raising tuition for the coming academic year.

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