Its time for coming attractions to end

From left: Iowa House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl, Florida Governor RonDeSantis, Iowa Senate President Amy Sinclair, Governor Kim Reynolds. Photo first published on Reynolds’ political Facebook page on December 18, 2023.

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and has been connected to Iowa’s 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. He can be reached at  

My grandson and I go to a lot of Marvel movies. We sit in the front, bathed in superhero heroism. But before the feature, there’s always coming attractions. The first three or four trailers are loud and enticing. Usually we whisper, “That looks great. We should try to go.” By the eighth, we’ve found the bottom of our popcorn, our drinks are gurgling empty, and the coming attractions seem to look alike.

During what should have been the three coldest, snowiest months in Iowa, my wife and I escaped to Florida, the land of Iowa legislative “coming attractions.”

Iowa is quickly becoming the Florida of the Midwest—minus beaches, palm trees, alligators, and year-round sunshine. At one time, our state kicked off presidential elections for both parties, opened its arms to immigrants, and was among the first to recognize people had a right to marry the ones they loved without regard to gender. Decades ago, our leaders believed public education was the foundation the state was built upon.

That was then. This is now.

Now, with no research, no questions, no creativity and no public input, Iowa lawmakers too often mimic the Sunshine State. The new state motto should be “If Florida does it, it’s good for Iowa.”

But like in the movies, those coming attractions are alike.

While auditioning for the presidency, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared “a war on woke.” Like Iowa, Florida has a GOP trifecta. So Republicans in control of both legislative chambers began passing a menu of laws DeSantis proposed. The goal was to transform Florida’s image from “God’s waiting room” to the place “Woke goes to die.”

Florida passed laws against the teaching “Critical Race Theory,” even though no one could clearly define the term or identify a public school where it was taught.

DeSantis and his legislature targeted books they regarded as pornographic in public schools, especially those with LGBT themes. Classics like the Grapes of Wrath and To Kill a Mockingbird soon began disappearing from school libraries, because schools were conflict adverse.

Florida rewrote the social studies curriculum with their own Republican spin.

Transgender students became the next target. Florida passed a ban on gender-affirming medical care for minors, such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy. The Parental Rights in Education law, which critics dubbed “Don’t say gay,” banned classroom discussion and instruction of any gender issues. Later it was modified by a civil rights settlement.

DeSantis and the legislature rolled back child labor laws to allow minors older than 16 to work up to 30 hours a week if the employer had parental permission.

Just before we headed North, Florida passed a law that banned local counties and cities from passing ordinances guaranteeing water breaks for workers working outside in the heat.

Florida armed teachers and other school personnel and allowed schools to hire armed security guards.

Iowa’s Republican governor and her legislative lemmings were watching.

Unlike my grandson and me, they didn’t get tired of the coming attractions. They embraced them by passing several copycat laws

It wasn’t a huge surprise that Governor Kim Reynolds abandoned her previous MAGA idol to endorse DeSantis before the Iowa caucuses. After all, she had been enthralled by his battle to conquer “woke.” 

I think she realizes the opposite of “woke” is “asleep”—which she counts on Iowa voters being as she remakes Iowa into a place no one recognizes.

Voters need to send a message in November. It’s time for the real Iowa feature film to begin and the coming attractions from Florida to end.

About the Author(s)

Bruce Lear

  • I agree

    Voters need to send a message. But I’m not confident that the Iowa Democratic Party or Democratic candidates will inspire and inform voters to send that message. Iowans who oppose Reynolds and Republican legislative candidates are going to have to do it ourselves.

  • This post very accurately describes...

    …a general policy relationship between Florida and Iowa. But there is at least one notable exception.

    Iowa has very little to learn from the Sunshine State when it comes to state laws and policies that attack the environment. We are being very effective in that area on our own. In fact, when it comes to attacking the environment, Florida could learn some things from Iowa.