Brittany Ruland for Iowa Democratic Party chair

Tim Nelson is a Des Moines-based campaign staffer.

The Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee will choose the party’s next chair this Saturday, January 28, so I wanted to take a moment to explain why I am backing State Senator Sarah Trone Garriott’s campaign manager Brittany Ruland for the role.

First things first: I want to clarify that my support for Brittany isn’t in opposition to Rita Hart.

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Questions for lawmakers who voted for "school choice"

Dianne Prichard of DeWitt taught in public schools for 33 years before becoming a pastor.

I have questions for the legislators who voted for the “school choice” bill, which Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law on January 24. 

1. How will you support our public schools?

As House File 68 is written, vouchers will harm public schools. 

About 33,000 Iowa students go to private schools now; the governor predicts that number will increase by 5,000 students. Meanwhile, approximately 500,000 Iowa students will remain in underfunded public schools.

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Schools choose

Jonna Higgins-Freese: Private schools choose their students. They have in the past, and they will in the future.

I’m slightly obsessed with George Lakoff, his cognitive science research about the metaphors we think with, and his recommendations for Democratic messaging (which we have mostly ignored; the national party fired him in 2006).

So you can imagine how delighted I’ve been to see Democrats finally adopting his suggestion to talk more about “the public.”

“Public Money in Public Schools” signs have been appearing all over my community for more than a year, and they have exactly the right message. 

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Worthy to be trusted with the musket

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

In the Muscatine Journal archive can be found several reports of Civil War service by a regiment of “colored” soldiers. Next time I will examine their role in making post-war Iowa the place Ulysses S. Grant would call the “bright radical star.”

January 16, 1863: “THE AFRICAN REGIMENTS.—Some of the African regiments, upon the organization of which the President has determined, will be employed to guard the banks of the Mississippi after it shall have been opened by our fleets and armies.”

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The twelve Iowa Republicans who voted against school vouchers

Less than two weeks after making her latest pitch for “school choice,” Governor Kim Reynolds got what she wanted. The Republican-controlled legislature approved the governor’s expansive school voucher program, by 55 votes to 45 in the Iowa House and 31 votes to 18 in the Senate.

The state of play in the lower chamber was in doubt as recently as a few days ago. Reynolds had only one public event on her schedule last week, but she held private meetings with more than a few House Republicans who either opposed her plan or were on the fence about approving an unlimited new entitlement for families choosing private schools. According to the fiscal analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, which does not include all expenses, the proposal will cost Iowa’s general fund an additional $878.8 million over the next four fiscal years, with costs reaching about $345 million during the fourth year.

House leaders changed the chamber’s rules to keep the voucher bill out of the Appropriations and Ways and Means committees, where there might not have been enough Republican support to send the legislation to the floor. Senate leaders used a procedural trick to prevent any Democratic amendments from being considered.

No GOP lawmakers spoke against the bill during the floor debates in either chamber. Three Republican holdouts (State Representatives Chad Ingels, Brian Lohse, and Tom Moore) indicated during the five-hour House session that they would like to be recognized by the chair. But each turned off their light at some point before being called on to speak.

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So many questions, but so few answers

Randy Evans can be reached at

You don’t need a crystal ball to see that private school vouchers appear to be barreling toward passage during the third week of the Iowa legislature’s 2023 session. These vouchers, or education savings accounts, or whatever you want to call them, would give parents $7,600 per year for each of their kids to attend a private K-12 school.

Although the outcome has been easy to foresee, it has not been easy to get answers to the many questions being asked across the state as Iowa lawmakers move toward this landmark change in education.

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Separate and unequal is wrong for Iowa

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and has been connected to public schools for 38 years. He taught for eleven years and represented educators as an Iowa State Education Association Regional Director for 27 years until retiring.

Governor Kim Reynolds’ private school voucher plan, which is being rammed through the Iowa legislature, does more than throw public coffers open to private schools. It obliterates the line between church and state as a new entitlement spawns an unequal, two-tier publicly-funded school system. 

Ironically, 86 years before the US Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that a two-tier public-school system based on race was unconstitutional, the Iowa Supreme Court determined in Clark v. Board of School Directors, “Schools may not segregate students based on race.”

An unequal publicly-funded system didn’t work then.

It won’t work now.

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Zach Nunn has a lot to learn about federal food programs

Fresh off his assignment to the House Agriculture Committee, U.S. Representative Zach Nunn revealed a fundamental misunderstanding of who benefits from federal food assistance programs.

Although the first-term Republican told an interviewer that nutritional assistance goes “largely to blue state communities,” one federal food program alone serves nearly 10 percent of Nunn’s constituents in Iowa’s third Congressional district.

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Brittany Ruland: The only choice for Iowa Democratic Party chair

Glenn Hurst is a family physician in southwest Iowa and chair of the Iowa Democratic Party’s Rural Caucus. He was a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in 2022.

The Iowa Democratic Party is about to choose its leadership after another round of disappointing losses to Republicans at the ballot box.

Democratic candidates lost every statewide race except for state auditor. Iowa’s U.S. senators both hail from the Grand Old Party. Republicans now represent every U.S. House district in Iowa. Republicans hold large state Senate and House majorities and can run the table. And Iowa courts are stacked with conservative judges. The Democrats have lost…resoundingly.

None of these situations were sudden unexpected blows. Rather, the trend has been building for at least the last three election cycles. The one takeaway all Democrats should agree on: business as usual is not working.

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Bruce Rastetter weighs in with Iowa lawmakers on school vouchers

One of Iowa’s largest Republican donors, whose company is seeking to build a carbon dioxide pipeline across Iowa, has urged state lawmakers to pass Governor Kim Reynolds’ “school choice” proposal.

Bruce Rastetter sent identical emails to numerous members of the Iowa House and Senate, from both parties, on January 19. The message (enclosed in full below) called the plan for state-funded accounts to cover private school costs “historic” and “important to families all across Iowa.”

Rastetter is the founder and CEO of Summit Agricultural Group. Its affiliate Summit Carbon Solutions is seeking to build a CO2 pipeline linking 30 ethanol plants in five states, and Rastetter has signed appeals to landowners in the pipeline’s path as Summit seeks voluntary easements. Summit has filed for but not yet received a permit from the Iowa Utilities Board. Its plan (along with other carbon pipeline proposals) has aroused intense opposition in rural Iowa.

Summit’s lobbyists have not registered a position on the school voucher bill, which Iowa House and Senate committees approved this week. Republican leaders are expected to bring it up for floor votes in both chambers next week.

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The time has come to license midwives in Iowa

Rachel Bruns is a volunteer advocate for quality maternal health care in Iowa.

The 2022 Iowa legislative session saw the most significant momentum in more than forty years of advocacy for the creation of a licensure of direct-entry midwives in Iowa. With the 2023 legislative session underway, I will review the pivotal moments in the 2022 legislative session and explain why the Iowa legislature and Governor Kim Reynolds should prioritize enacting a midwifery licensure bill.

While I have addressed the need to provide a licensure for Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) in previous pieces, I will go more in-depth in providing background on why all Iowans should want and support CPMs practicing in our state.

Note: I would not benefit directly in any way if this bill passed, as I am not a birthworker (doula, midwife, physician), and I do not plan on having any more children. Through my volunteer work with the International Cesarean Awareness Network, I have learned a lot about the different types of midwives and believe Iowans have been “dealt a bad hand” by not having knowledge or access to community birth options that are more readily available in other states and other high-income countries. Iowa families deserve to have all options available for safe and quality maternal health care.

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A case for Iowa to hold open primaries

Doris J. Kelley is a former member of the Iowa House and former Iowa Board of Parole Chair, Vice-Chair and Executive Director.

With Iowa in its 177th year of statehood (December 28, 1846), we should have our ducks in a row by. But, we are one of six states still in the dark ages when it comes to the primary election process.

Iowa, along with Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Wyoming operate their primary elections, which selects candidates before the general election, under a process referred to as “partially open.” This system permits voters to cross party lines, but they are required to change their party affiliation.

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A typo cast in stone

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

According to Portrait and Biographical Album of Muscatine County, Iowa (1889), Editor-publisher John Mahin “was secretary and manager of the Soldiers’ Monument Association of Muscatine County which erected the beautiful shaft to the memory of the heroes who fell in the cause of Union and freedom upon Southern battle-fields, and which now ornaments the court-house square of Muscatine.”

Author Lee Miller, while researching his 2009 book, Crocker’s Brigade, “noticed a conspicuous disparity between the number of names displayed on the memorial and the actual number of Muscatine County soldiers who died during the Civil War.” (Blurb on his second book, Triumph & Tragedy, 2012.)

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Due diligence on school vouchers

Susie Petra is a retired educator and longtime state and community activist.

I assume you and I share the value of education. And I’d like to believe Governor Kim Reynolds and state legislators believe in our country’s democratic republic form of government, as I do. That involves being informed about education systems: what works, what doesn’t, and why public schools are important and necessary.

It appears that the governor and her supporters have not done due diligence when it comes to the latest “school choice” plan. Let me help.

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Four takeaways from Iowa's 2022 early voting numbers

Sixth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2022 state and federal elections.

The Iowa Secretary of State’s office recently published the statewide statistical report on the 2022 general election. Republicans enacted many new barriers to early voting in 2021, which meant that compared to previous elections, Iowans had fewer days to request absentee ballots, fewer days to vote early by any means, and less time to return absentee ballots to county auditors. It was also much harder for Iowans to deliver another person’s completed absentee ballot, and each county could have only one drop box.

As expected, fewer Iowans voted early. The decline wasn’t spread evenly across the electorate.

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A misguided effort to make Iowa's local elections partisan

Rick Morain is the former publisher and owner of the Jefferson Herald, for which he writes a regular column.

If Senate File 23 were to become law in Iowa, all city and school elections would be partisan, and only partisan. Candidates in those elections would have their names placed on the ballot only by their political party; no independent candidates could run.

Republican State Senator Brad Zaun of Urbandale filed the bill on January 9, and it was quickly assigned to a State Government subcommittee, which has not yet considered the bill. Zaun filed a similar bill last year. It went nowhere.

Almost all Iowa city and school elections have been nonpartisan for many decades. For all I know it’s been that way since the creation of the state more than 150 years ago. I didn’t try to research that history, and it doesn’t really matter. The important fact is that at present, anyone of legal age in Iowa, whether affiliated with a political party or not, can take out nomination papers, get the required number of signatures on them by the filing deadline, and thereby become a candidate to help govern his or her city or school district.

It’s a system that’s worked just fine forever. Why change it?

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Public schools are a guarantor of democracy

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher and for 30 years a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association.

A staff editorial in the Sunday Des Moines Register offers a hard-hitting rebuke of the governor’s pet “choice” project, aptly illustrated with a unicorn. Ironically, in some circles a unicorn represents unity, the inclusion of the “other” in the circle of family, friendship, and democracy, an important purpose of public education.

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Brian McClain for Iowa Democratic Party vice chair

Ryan Melton was the 2022 Democratic nominee in Iowa’s fourth Congressional district. The Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee will elect new leaders on January 28.

There’s been a lot of debate post-election regarding the Iowa Democratic Party’s future. My view is we need to be more fervent and unrelenting in our advocacy for the people, making sure we don’t sacrifice that primary focus in the pursuit of corporate money, political calculus, or false, monolithic assumptions about the state’s voters. 

We need to be real. We need to be genuine. We as Democrats truly have the platform that advocates for the people. We have the platform that focuses on advancing the greater good. But too often, our leaders aren’t fully embracing the platform’s potential, to our detriment.

That’s why I’m writing to endorse Brian McLain for Iowa Democratic Party Vice Chair.

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Middle initials

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

The first draft of history is the newspaper. Or used to be.

Certainly the Muscatine Journal archive is a main source about Alexander Clark, maybe the most important one. As early as 1853, the editor saw his neighbor’s life as news worth reporting. As Clark’s fame grew from local to national and beyond, John Mahin’s paper supplied evidence of what was said at the time about Iowa’s champion of emancipation and equality.

During the 1880s, Clark and his son worked at publishing a leading Black newspaper in Chicago, The Conservator. Bits of it quoted or mentioned in the Journal are some of the best remnants of an undertaking that put Clark on the executive committee of the national Black publishers association.

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