Re-establishing Democratic governance

Charles Bruner is a longtime advocate for policies that support children and strengthen families. -promoted by Laura Belin

About this essay

I studied political science at the beginning of the 1970s at one of the elitist of universities, Stanford University. My graduate school class, if not all radicals, shared a serious critique of American government and the military-industrial complex, the Vietnam war, the academic privilege and not freedom that embodied the Stanford administration, and the failure for society to listen to youth and follow-through on the vision expressed in the decidedly liberal document, The Port Huron Statement.

I returned to Iowa in 1975 feeling alienated and full of angst at my better understanding of the darker side of American politics. But I had no clue how to contribute to changing it. Fortunately, I found a group of 20-somethings in Iowa – largely through the Community Action Research Group (Iowa’s Public Interest Research Group) – doing that work in the policy field on the environment. They connected me to a job at the Iowa Welfare Association funded by the Compensatory Education and Training Act, the federal jobs program that provided nonprofits with funding to create jobs. It gave me space to learn and grow, as it did for others in my group.

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Iowa students join lawsuit over discrimination at Christian colleges

Two Iowa students are among the plaintiffs in a groundbreaking federal class action lawsuit filed this past week. The Portland-based Religious Exemption Accountability Project is suing the U.S. Department of Education and its acting assistant secretary for civil rights, seeking “to put an end to the U.S. Department of Education’s complicity in the abuses and unsafe conditions thousands of LGBTQ+ students endure at hundreds of taxpayer-funded, religious colleges and universities.”

Lauren Hoekstra and Avery Bonestroo are undergraduates at Dordt University in Sioux Center, one of 25 Christian institutions where the 33 plaintiffs are now enrolled or formerly studied.

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It's as bad as the voucher bill

Bruce Lear identifies problems with a charter school bill Iowa House Republicans passed on March 24. -promoted by Laura Belin

When I was a teenager, my Mom told me, “Nothing good happens after midnight.” I didn’t believe it then, but I do now. It’s especially true when the majority party tries to sneak a bad bill through the Iowa House after midnight.

That’s exactly what happened when Republicans passed House File 813, an effort to promote charter schools, with no public hearing and little public notice. This bill would change how a charter school may be started in Iowa by keeping the provision in current law allowing application to a local school board, but expanding that application process so the “founding group” may bypass the local school board and go directly to the Iowa Department of Education.

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Three reasons Kim Reynolds should veto permitless carry

Amber Gustafson is a graduate student at Drake University, an Ankeny mom of three, and a gun safety advocate. -promoted by Laura Belin

Earlier this week, the Iowa Senate passed House File 756, a bill that would make handgun carry permits and background checks on unlicensed sales optional for residents of the state.

Having cleared the Iowa House on March 17, the bill now moves to Governor Kim Reynolds’ desk. At this writing, she has not signed it.

At a March 24 press conference, she waffled when asked about her plans for the bill, calling for a “holistic approach” to gun violence prevention.

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Why is Iowa (again) struggling with racism?

Athena Gilbraith is a racial justice activist in eastern Iowa. -promoted by Laura Belin

This week Republican legislators on the Iowa House Government Oversight Committee took on school officials in Ames to contest cultural competency. To challenge a celebration of Black America and Black Iowans, these lawmakers chose to center dehumanization.

Representative Bobby Kaufmann described Black History Month teaching materials as “garbage,” while Representative Steven Holt amplified whataboutism, a dog whistle in shepherding white supremacy. (Editor’s note: You can watch the committee hearing here or listen to the audio here.)

Between the extreme new voter suppression law, the bill to codify “qualified immunity” for law enforcement, and limiting diversity training at Iowa universities, the goal appears to be to reproduce racial inequality in our state. 

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Iowa's state universities are dying, slowly

Alex Travesset dispels some misconceptions that threaten to turn Iowa’s state universities into “giant teaching community colleges with no research.” -promoted by Laura Belin

It was January of 1997 when I got an offer for a three-year research position at Syracuse University in New York. I defended my PhD that summer and arrived at Syracuse in early September. I had never been in the U.S. before, but I quickly found it a fantastic environment to work, based on merit and so different with the bureaucracy and cronyism that I had experienced in European universities.

Fast forward to winter 2002. During another two-year position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, preceded by a short-term but productive visiting position at Harvard University, I was interviewing for faculty jobs. At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst I had an exchange I will never forget. Noticing that the institution was in apparent crisis at the time, I very politely inquired about it to the chair of the Department of Physics. He told me very honestly that Massachusetts had too many top private universities, and it was not like the Midwest, where legislators are alumni and have developed a pride and special bond toward their public universities.

Fittingly, my last interview was at Iowa State. I fell in love right away; it was quite similar to the University of Illinois, had a thriving department, but in addition, a National Lab, the Ames lab, just across the physics building. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I got an offer, which I accepted without delay. In August 2002, I moved to Ames and started a tenure track position as assistant professor. As is the norm, I was given generous funds to get my research group started. With the typical highs and lows, I got tenure and was promoted to associate professor in 2008. I became full professor in 2013.

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