The GOP abandoned Iowa’s strong public education heritage

Ras Smith has represented part of Waterloo in the Iowa House since 2017 and is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.

School is back in session across the state, but with soaring cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 and school districts stripped of local control, our educators, students, and parents are suffering. Long before the pandemic, though, Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa GOP turned their backs on schools in Iowa.

Education is central to our heritage. Iowa’s state quarter reads “Foundation in Education.” When I had the opportunity to visit with former Senator Tom Harkin this spring, he reminded me that Iowa’s forbearers prioritized establishing a schoolhouse in every township, and they prioritized paying for it. That’s the Iowa I know and love.

Our schools are the backbones of our communities. But right now, there’s a major disconnect between politicians and our classrooms. From not empowering local school districts to make decisions about how to keep students safe during the pandemic, to propping up for-profit charter schools with no oversight, to banning curriculum, Governor Reynolds has led Iowa astray. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

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Republicans continue to attack Iowa public schools

Randy Richardson reviews the education bills Iowa lawmakers passed during the 2021 session. -promoted by Laura Belin

According to the Republican Party of Iowa’s website, Republicans believe “individuals, not the government, make the best decisions; all people are entitled to equal rights; and decisions are best made close to home.”

While the party may espouse those beliefs, their actions on public education hardly exemplify those statements.

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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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Iowa governor's proclamation creates confusion for schools

Randy Richardson: Governor Kim Reynolds’ latest proclamation appears to override all of the work done by school districts and strikes at the very heart of our long tradition of local control of school districts. -promoted by Laura Belin

Usually when an elected leader holds a press conference to offer additional guidance on a topic, everyone leaves with a deeper understanding of the issue. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case following Governor Kim Reynolds’ July 17 press conference on students returning to school amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, we got a new interpretation of a law that went into effect on July 1, which runs counter to much of the work schools have been doing.

Following the press conference, the governor released a proclamation that limits the ability of both public and private schools to offer remote learning and which loosens the current requirements on the qualifications for substitute teachers.

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Bill would allow more guns in Iowa's local government buildings, parks

Bridget Carberry Montgomery sounds the alarm about a bill Iowa Senate Republicans sent to the governor last week. Bleeding Heartland covered its provisions in detail after House Republicans approved the legislation in February. -promoted by Laura Belin

As a member of the Urbandale City Council, I have a responsibility to ensure the safety of residents, employees, and visitors to Urbandale. In that capacity, I implore Governor Kim Reynolds to veto House File 2502, because it interferes with our state’s long history of local control and makes our communities less safe.  

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We need a new candidate in Iowa House district 14

This bad news comes to you courtesy of the Mason City Globe-Gazette: State Representative Mark Kuhn will retire from the Iowa House next year to seek a seat on the Floyd County Board of Supervisors. He served on that board for six years before being elected to represent House district 14 in 1998. He told the Globe-Gazette that he will serve out his current term but wants to be closer to his family.

He said some of the highlights of his legislative career include:

– In his first term, securing an $800,000 interest-free loan for Floyd County and Charles City for Iowa’s first shared (with the DOT) transportation maintenance facility, located in Charles City.

– Authoring a bill banning the gasoline additive MTBE, believed to be a cancer-causing agent.

– Increasing markets for ethanol.

– Working to make the State Capitol building safer for persons with disabilities.

– Securing a $500,000 I-JOBS grant to repair the flood-damaged Charles City Fire Station and for infrastructure projects in Rudd, Rockford, Marble Rock and Nora Springs.

Kuhn currently chairs the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. He is a farmer and strong supporter of agricultural zoning at the county level, also known as “local control” over confined-animal feeding operations (CAFOs). I had hoped that one day he might chair the Iowa House Agriculture Committee, and I’m sorry to hear of his retirement.

District 14 (map in pdf file) contains all of Floyd and Mitchell Counties, plus part of Cerro Gordo County. Bleeding Heartland readers familiar with north-central Iowa, which Democrats should run to replace Kuhn? According to the Globe-Gazette, one Republican candidate has already declared in this district: Josh Byrnes, the agricultural and industrial technology division chairman at North Iowa Area Community College. In the 2008 election, Kuhn won just under 71 percent of the vote against Jeff Mosiman.

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