116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CENTRAL CITY — Parental rights became a focal point at Iowa Republican U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson's campaign rally Sunday at the Linn County Fairgrounds.
Hinson and a slate of GOP speakers said the mother of two would continue to be a strong conservative voice in Congress for parents against pandemic-related school closures, masking and vaccination mandates, and transgender policies like the one in the Linn-Mar Community School District in Marion.
“She’s a conservative mom not afraid to push back against the liberal elite,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said to a boisterous crowd of about 750 who gathered at the fairgrounds in Central City in support of Hinson’s re-election.
Some held signs that read: “Moms for Ashley.”
The Marion Republican is running in Iowa’s new 2nd Congressional District against Democratic state Sen. Liz Mathis of Hiawatha. Hinson currently represents Iowa’s 1st U.S. House district.
Mathis was unavailable for comment as of press time, according to her campaign.
Iowa Democrats, though, have argued that voters in the state want and deserve an honest representative who supports public education and teachers.
“Do you want a representative in Washington, D.C., who lobbied to keep kids behind (computer) screens instead of back in classrooms?” Hinson said during the rally.
The audience shouted back: “No!”
Hinson pledged to continue to fight for “Iowa values in Washington, D.C.” and oppose what she deemed “radical nonsense,” referring to the Linn-Mar Community School District’s policies to protect transgender students from discrimination. Hinson’s two sons attend Linn-Mar schools.
A parents group is suing the school district, superintendent and board members over the policy.
The group contends the Linn-Mar policy allows children to make fundamentally important decisions about gender identity without parental involvement and hide those decisions from their parents.
School district officials have said the policies were intended to allow transgender students to advocate for themselves, feel comfortable at school, receive support from staff and work with staff and families to create a plan to help them succeed.
The policies spell out inclusive practices for transgender students, including giving students access to restrooms, locker rooms or changing areas that correspond with their gender identity. They also protect students’ privacy by keeping their transgender status private at school, if they prefer. And students in seventh grade or older have priority over their parent or guardian of a gender support plan.
“Is that nonsense or what?” Hinson told her crowd of supporters.
“Clearly, they have decided that the school board knows better what is best for kids’ mental health and physical well-being over the parents,” she said. “But we know kids don’t belong to school boards. Kids don’t belong to government. Kids belong to parents. And parents matter.”
The line drew among the loudest applause of the night.
Hinson is a co-sponsor of the Parents Bill of Rights Act “because parents deserve to have a stake in their kids education.”
Hinson has said the legislation affirms that parents be notified and consulted about what is happening at their child’s school, including medical or mental health issues regarding their child.
The bill, among other requirements, directs local educational agencies to publicly post curriculum for each elementary and secondary school grade level online. It also requires schools to notify parents and guardians of their rights, including the right to review the school's curriculum and budget and a list of all books and reading materials contained in the school library, and the right to information about violent activity in their child’s school.
A similar bill failed to pass the Iowa Legislature this past session.
Republicans argued the bills will foster better communication between parents and teachers.
Critics contend parents already have a voice in their child’s education and that the legislation is a Trojan horse for conservatives to intimidate and bully public school officials over materials about race, diversity and sexuality that they deem to be obscene or objectionable.
Educators have said they worry so-called curriculum-transparency requirements will invite censorship, professional burnout and resignations.
Typically, the books are about LGBTQ people or people of color, and some include passages that describe sexual activity.
‘Parents back in charge’
“We’re going to put parents back in charge of their children’s education,” Reynolds told supporters Sunday in Linn County.
“It is common sense to let parents decide if their child should be masked or get (a) vaccine. It is common sense to protect girls’ sports for girls,” she added.
Reynolds signed a bill into law earlier this year that bans transgender girls and women from participating in girls’ and women’s sports in Iowa.
Opponents say examples of transgender girls dominating high school and college athletics are rare, and that such bans discriminate against transgender children and violate federal law.
“And it is common-sense to keep pornographic books out of the classroom,” Reynolds continued. “And it is common-sense to let parents have a say in where their children should be educated, and it shouldn’t just be for people who have the financial resources to make that decision.”
Reynolds has spent the past two years pushing for taxpayer funding for private school tuition assistance, and endorsed primary challengers and school choice advocates who ousted several Republican incumbents who opposed her hallmark education proposal.
The legislation stalled in the Iowa House this past session. Reynolds has pledged to bring the proposal back to state lawmakers again next year, which would initially reach 10,000 students and cost the state roughly $55 million.
“Every single parent deserves the right to get their child in an environment where they can thrive and be the very best that they can be,” Reynolds said Sunday. “That means also having a strong public school system and that we are supporting that. It is critical to the foundation of our state and our society. It is not a zero-sum game.
“We can do both, and we will be better and our kids will be better because of it.”
Education has emerged as a central issue in the Iowa governor’s race, with Democrat Deidre DeJear promising to increase funding for Iowa’s public schools.
“I agree that we need a strong public school system, which is inconsistent with this governor's attempt to defund our public schools,” DeJear said in a statement.
“Iowans have spoken loudly against her voucher plan; the Legislature spoke as well, but she continues to push her agenda, again ignoring the voice of Iowans. Ridiculous — yes. Impossible to overcome — no; vote her out in November.”
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