Iowa detains Black youth at highest national rate

No state in the country has placed a higher proportion of Black youth in juvenile facilities than Iowa, according to a new Sentencing Project analysis. The Black youth placement rate in Iowa was more than double the national average in 2019, and young African Americans in Iowa were nearly nine times as likely as their white peers to be committed to facilities such as “detention centers, residential treatment centers, group homes, and youth prisons.”

Josh Rovner was the lead author of Black Disparities in Youth Incarceration, which the Sentencing Project published on July 15. The two-page report included statistics on youth placement in Washington, DC and the 36 states where at least 8,000 residents are African Americans between the ages of 10 and 17.

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Donald Trump, GOP officials mock the martyrs

Herb Strentz: White residents of Tulsa 100 years ago could not bear the success of Black citizens any more than Republican legislators today can bear the notion of communities of color helping to vote them out of office.

With all the dreams about achieving “herd immunity” to counter the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s worrying to consider how our nation may have already achieved a kind of “immunity” from the promise of our constitution.

Columnist Paul Krugman suggested as much in a recent column called “The banality of democratic collapse.” He was referring to democracy, not the Democratic Party.

He warned, “America’s democratic experiment may well be nearing its end. That’s not hyperbole; it’s obvious to anyone following the political scene.”

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What July Fourth Means

A year ago in The New York Times, David Brooks asked us on the Fourth of July to renew our national spirit, asserting that failing to take pride in America has caused many of the inequities and inequalities that have led to our comprehensive failure to conquer the pandemic.

Any such feeling has to include the reality that America was never a single nation to begin with. And that we remain separate nations today, kept apart by ingrained notions that bar too many of us from achieving this country’s promise: that each of us can use what our creator has bestowed upon us to the best of our abilities for the betterment of us all.

We began as a confederation of thirteen separate states, settled by different peoples, with different philosophies of how to live, achieve liberty and pursue happiness. (Many of us did agree, however, on driving out and killing the indigenous peoples.) Other “settlers” of diverse backgrounds came to these shores and added to the stew.

Today, separate Americas remain:

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Classroom meddling in Iowa can’t go unanswered

Bruce Lear on how a new law banning certain “specific defined concepts” in diversity training could affect Iowa teachers. -promoted by Laura Belin

Yes, it’s been a horrible, terrible, very bad year for public schools in Iowa. As usual, the Republican-controlled Iowa legislature underfunded schools. Also typical for them, they tried again to pass a voucher law to give public money to private schools. 

When that didn’t work, they passed “vouchers lite”: a mostly unregulated, for-profit charter school law, that will no doubt siphon money from the already underfunded public system, and that could leave rural Iowa as an education desert.

What wasn’t quite as typical was the legislature’s meddling in the classroom.

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Waterloo's "ban the box" ordinance survives in part—for now

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled on June 18 that part of the city of Waterloo’s “ban the box” ordinance can remain in effect despite a 2017 law prohibiting local governments from regulating “terms or conditions of employment.”

The city adopted the ordinance in November 2019 to address economic racial disparities. Because African Americans are more likely to have a criminal record, they are adversely affected by job applications that require a person to note whether they have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime.

Under Waterloo’s ordinance, employers may not inquire about past convictions, arrests, or pending criminal charges “during the application process,” but may do so after extending “a conditional offer of employment.” The court found that was allowed, because it regulates only “the time when an employer can inquire into a prospective employee’s criminal history,” which is not “a term or condition of employment.”

However, the Iowa Supreme Court held that state law preempts other portions of Waterloo’s ordinance, which prohibit employers from making an “adverse hiring decision” based on an applicant’s criminal history.

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Iowa's delegation supported Juneteenth holiday

Juneteenth National Independence Day is now a federal holiday, under legislation President Joe Biden signed today. The bill commemorating the end of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865 moved through Congress at unusual speed so it could take effect in time for this weekend. Most federal government workers will have Friday the 18th off, since the new holiday falls on a Saturday.

The U.S. Senate approved the bill through unanimous consent on June 15. Iowa’s junior Senator Joni Ernst was one of the 60 co-sponsors (including eighteen Republicans) in the upper chamber. Senator Chuck Grassley didn’t co-sponsor the bill, but at least he didn’t object to its passage. He is one of only two currently serving senators who voted against establishing a holiday to honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1983. (The other is Richard Shelby of Alabama.)

U.S. House members approved the Juneteenth bill on June 16 by 415 votes to 14 (roll call). All four representatives from Iowa voted yes, which probably would not have been the case if Steve King had fended off Randy Feenstra’s primary challenge last year.

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