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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Diversity lacking on Iowa Democrats' new governing body

Both major parties held district conventions on April 28. One encouraging sign from the Iowa Democratic Party’s proceedings: activists are much more energized this year than usual. Every delegate slot was filled in all four Congressional districts. Quite a few alternates (including myself) did not receive credentials. According to former State Senator Jack Hatch, it was only the second time in 40 years that an IA-03 district convention “packed a full slate of delegates.” State party chair Troy Price observed in a Facebook post, “Typically, in a non-Presidential year it is a struggle to reach quorum, and this year we had more people than spots available.”

All of the district convention delegates elected at county conventions in March are automatically delegates for the state conventions in June. So the main order of business yesterday was choosing members of each party’s State Central Committee.

Both Democrats and Republicans will have lots of new faces on their governing bodies. But Democrats mostly missed an opportunity to elect leaders who reflect the diversity of the party’s base.

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