Jodie Butler: Iowa GOP lawmakers are listening to no one but their own caucus members and the Republican base, ignoring concerns expressed by many constituents.
I have never been so offended as I have been this year by comments and actions from Iowa Republicans. I was Governor Terry Branstad’s education policy advisor for nearly five years in the 1990s, and I have never seen such cruel partisanship in my entire life.
During the last decade of GOP rule, programs have been slashed, lawsuits have increased, voting has been restricted, the percentage of the state budget for education decreased, women and LGBTQ people denigrated, educators demoralized, and self-centered egregious politics funded by outsiders.
Divisiveness is not productive. State Representatives Steve Holt, Bobby Kaufmann, and Norlin Mommsen, State Senators Jason Schultz and Jake Chapman, Governor Kim Reynolds, and several others have proposed legislation that should alarm Iowans and never be passed. These bills indicate no interest in compromise.
Banning books, cameras in classrooms, flipping “the bird,” vouchers that would further erode public education funding, more voter restrictions, shoving the media off the Iowa Senate floor, and tax breaks skewed toward the wealthy, which the nonpartisan Legislative Service Agency estimated will shrink Iowa revenue by $1.7 billion, causing even more cuts to impact valuable programs. And vouchers are not "student scholarships"!
GOP lawmakers are listening to no one but their own caucus members and the party base, ignoring concerns expressed by many constituents. They lack respect for others in both their rhetoric and their actions.
Contrary to what Iowa Senate President Chapman asserted on the first day of the legislative session, Iowa educators are not sinister, and neither are our journalists. Nor are they Marxists, despite Holt's claim last week when that public schools are teaching “Marxist ideology … (and) hatred of our country.”
Why is Holt pushing to take away money from the public schools? Why is he calling educators Marxists? Why did Chapman call teachers and journalists sinister? Why is Reynolds serving as enabler-in-chief by saying nothing about the embarrassing words and deeds of her colleagues?
The bigger question is: Why are these individuals still being elected to these positions of power? They are not governing for all the people. They are acting like untouchable rulers, with personal vendettas, carrying out legislation that has been drafted by those outside the state who cheer each time a legislature kick’s news media from press boxes so that their actions will not be reported to the public. They “serve” as leaders in ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), so they can fill GOP coffers with out-of-state funding to continue their rule against the Iowans who live and work here.
Why would any family want to re-locate to Iowa now? Why would any teacher want to teach in Iowa now? Why would any business want to remain in Iowa? This is not the Iowa I knew and, regretfully, leaders we respected and admired—like Governor Bob Ray, Lieutenant Governor Joy Corning, and Marvin Pomerantz—have come and gone.
Iowans can do something about this. They can advocate peacefully, respectfully, and responsibly for better governance. They can vote for leaders who will represent all Iowans’ interests in the 21st Century, who understand what public service means: “to benefit all the people!”
Jodie Butler lives in Ankeny. Her career of more than 45 years includes work at the local, state, national and international levels from teaching to education and technology policy development. She was Governor Terry Branstad’s education policy advisor (January 1994 to October 1998), with responsibilities for policy/law development, budget initiatives, constituent services, and agency liaison to multiple state agencies.
Top photo of Jodie Butler provided by the author and published with permission.
-Please give examples of programs that were slashed. I know of non that have not benefited the majority of Iowans.
-What books have been banned? I am against that too. Freedom of Speech.
-I also did not approve of the "flipping of the bird" deal. That is the new generation we have brought up in our world and people that follow those particular people that follow people like that are encouraged by activity like that. It happens on both sides of the political spectrum, but of course this most recent event is in everyone's minds. The key here is that that is why we have elections. If you do not approve of this person's activity, people in his district have the right to vote him out. And if they sign a petition, they don't necessarily have to wait until election time.
-Cameras in the classroom I actively spoke out against and there is 1 reason. Political views. Everything a teacher says in the classroom would be scrutinized and your never going to please either side with every topic. I don't approve of indoctrination, but discussions on all topics of teaching revolve around what a teacher has been taught themselves and their own knowledge base, so anything that counters the thoughts of an opposing group of people could become a heated topic. Teachers already live in fear of their jobs and the added pressure from cameras would have put the nerves of some teachers over the edge. You must question to yourself, "Why would I become a teacher for the wage that I would be paid if my job is threatened every day I go to work?" So I think we need to respect teachers a bit and appreciate that we have enough people that make these life decisions that they want to live the lifestyle of a teacher. I think we should be very thankful that we have any teachers at all.
-I would agree that more money needs to be directed at education. It is always neglected on both sides of the party lines and is far far behind where it should be. This goes back a long ways too. I do not believe teachers should be paid a salary. I personally feel they should be paid hourly and be paid for every hour they apply to work. If I get paid for working at home, they should too. Teachers work too many hours for free and devote their lives to the lives of our children. Now, there are some bad apples in the cart, but that is going to happen and that issue needs to be addressed in a different way.
-I often question myself too, "Why do these politicians keep getting re-elected?" and the answer is clear. The majority of people that actually get out and vote feel that their representative has done good for their area and their beliefs, or they have no clue, do not follow politics and/or news to know there has been anything that has changed. The average Iowan would never even known how their representative even voted on a particular bill. Most people usually vote to keep their representatives in place unless they clearly are aware of a major issue or something that personally effects them in a bad way. This is the same scenario as judges, and the same scenario as the federal representatives.
As someone who worked with you toward the end of the first Branstad administration, I echo your column. I am deeply disappointed in what's happened to the GOP. Iowa needs to be a destination for those who believe in what's best about America: pluralism, tolerance, integrity, opportunity, economic dynamism, rule of law, and the pursuit of truth. Not only will Iowa not be attracting these people, they will be fleeing.
I once knew the past GOP leaders in Iowa. We were friends.
Jodi Butler hit the nail on the head in her analysis of how the current conservative political stormtroopers have made a mockery of traditional Republican positions and leaders. She mentioned Bob Ray, Joy Corning and Marv Pomerantz. There were others like Mary Louise Smith, Dottie Carpenter, Janet Metcalf and Betty Grundberg, to name a few. I am fortunate to have known and worked with these folks. The difference between who they were and who replaced them is cavernous. Like the"Butler Act" adopted into Tennessee state law in 1922 criminalizing the teaching of evolution, we have in 2022, fundamentalist legislators in Texas, Florida and Iowa attacking science and medicine; using doctors and teachers as vulnerable pawns to to punish and vilify.
Driven by fear of change, clinging to their imaginary past and rejecting the modern world, they misuse the power of government to impose irrational roadblocks to liberty and justice for all. Mary Louse Smith often paraphrased Churchill by saying, "Remember, when you feed the alligators it only means you'll be the last they eat". And she was right. The fringe conservative elements in the GOP were tolerated and so they feasted on leaders like her until there was nothing left to eat. We're living "Inherit the Wind" all over again.
GOP then and now
I don’t recognize the GOP of today at the national or state level. I agree wholeheartedly with the thoughts expressed in the column. I hope we all find a way to express our views respectfully and focus on education policies that support teachers and public education rather than denigrate them. I also feel that agencies like the our Iowa departments of education and public health have been corrupted in their mission by these cast of characters. The sooner we vote them. Out of office, the better.
Branstad and teachers
I guess it is better late than never, and I am glad you have come around to seeing the light. But the Iowa GOP of '94-'98 didn't exactly treat teachers all that well, either. Governor Branstad has never respected the teacher's unions.
So, welcome aboard - several decades too late.
(I think you were my elementary school music teacher for one year back in the early-mid 70s, BTW. Were you a member of the local teacher's union when you taught at Lisbon?)