116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Clearly, cooler heads were not prevailing as the Legislature returned this week.
Republican Senate President Jake Chapman, R-Adel, set the tone. Chapman, you may recall, is leading the charge to create a new felony aimed at public school teachers and staff that make what he considers “obscene” material available in school libraries.
Controversies involving books in school libraries are not new. Districts have processes in place to handle parent challenges. But Chapman and other Republicans have decided they can reap political benefits by whipping up local debates into a frenzy and putting a target on the backs of educators.
Chapman opened the session Monday with a speech accusing the media and educators of having a “sinister agenda.”
"It has become increasingly evident that we live in a world in which many, including our media, wish to confuse, misguide and deceive us, calling good evil and evil good," Chapman said.
"The attack on our children is no longer hidden. Those who wish to normalize sexually deviant behavior against our children, including pedophilia and incest, are pushing this movement more than ever before,” Chapman said.
Conservatives have pulled out short passages from books to stoke outrage. None of these books, taken as a whole, would be considered obscene under current state law.
The books are intended for students who too rarely see their lives and traumas reflected in literature. But there’s political gold to be mined by kicking around kids who already feel marginalized.
In her Condition of the State speech Tuesday night, Reynolds did not call for jailing teachers. Instead, she called for school districts to make a list of library books, curriculum and other materials available to parents online. Seems reasonable.
And yet, Reynolds embraced Chapman’s narrative of schools pushing a “worldview” through “X-rated” books. She argued the “vulgar and sexually explicit” material involves “minors,” although the most explicit scene singled out by conservatives in the book “Gender Queer” happened when the author was in college and was between two consenting adults.
“We live in a free country with free expression. But there’s a difference between shouting vulgarities from a street corner and assigning them as required classroom reading,” Reynolds said.
“Enough is enough. Parents matter, and we’re going to make sure you stay in charge of your child’s education,” Reynolds said, receiving her loudest, longest applause of the night.
Parents who don’t want books banned don’t count.
Reynolds then used the books controversy as a pretext for providing state-funded $5,340 private school scholarships to students in households with incomes at or below 400 percent of the federal poverty level, $106,000 for a family of four. The $5,340 is 70 percent of per-pupil state funding. She’d give the other 30 percent to small school districts. Take that, city libs.
But, hey, the governor did offer to pay teachers a $1,000 retention bonus if they stick around to see how all of this turns out.
So if you’re suffering whiplash after this sharp turn against public schools in Iowa, you’re not alone. The Republican “worldview” now says if you oppose banning books, you support pedophilia. It’s beyond irresponsible and reckless. But cooler heads have left the building.
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