Guest Columnist

Iowa Republicans are sowing the wind

They may have received a mandate, but not a mandate to kill public education

An empty hallway is seen at Garfield Elementary School in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (Rebecca F. Miller/The
An empty hallway is seen at Garfield Elementary School in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

As I read about the Iowa Republican attack on public schools, I can’t help but remember a Bible verse I learned in Sunday school. Hosea 8:7 says, “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.”

Oh, I know, just a few months ago during the election Iowa bled red, while the rest of the country turned a light purple, but I believe most Iowans still hold strong public schools as an Iowa value, and that value is at risk.

The Republican Party may have received a mandate, but not a mandate to kill public education. Don’t get me wrong, for decades anti-public education bills have been proposed. But a couple of decades ago, there were guard rails, and adult leaders, who would squash the truly stupid and harmful ideas before they hurt Iowa’s future.

Now, the Republican adults have left the building.

What once was fringe is now mainstream. Here are just a few examples.

I’m not sure how many times vouchers were actually proposed under different sweet-sounding names, but they always went down. What kept them from passing was a combination of divided government between the parties, recognition within the both parties that it would hurt public education and the belief any plan would cost too much in the long run.

But as I write this, the Senate narrowly passed SF159 so the voucher train is racing down the tracks with no brakes and it is about to collide with a cherished Iowa value.

Not only has the Republican majority shown they will use public money for private choice, they also want to steal local control.

The governor recently signed SF160 tying the hands of local school boards and demanding that schools be 100 percent in person starting Feb. 15, regardless of the rate of virus spread in the community. After all, tiny Whiting must be identical to metro Des Moines.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

The governor doesn’t seem to recognize hypocrisy when she practices it since Terrace Hill, where she lives, limits tours to 6 people. At the same time, she demands schools with classes of 30-plus open.

Even more extreme, Rep. Jeff Shipley, an outspoken anti vaccination advocate, proposed HF 247 prohibiting all required immunization in elementary or secondary schools.

During a time when schools are struggling with a pandemic and with chronic underfunding, Sen. Jim Carlin and five others want to demand schools teach cursive writing. I’m sure Iowans will sleep better as a result of SF 89 requiring kids to write in cursive.

The intrusion to the classroom continues with HF 222 where Rep. Skyler Wheeler wants to prohibit social studies classrooms from using a particular history curriculum he finds offensive. This bill substitutes his judgment for the judgment of local administrators, board members, and teachers.

Public higher education isn’t exempt from legislative overreach. Sen. Brad Zaun proposed prohibiting tenure for college and university professors in SF 41. Since few if any, states have a similar law, this would make Iowa a higher education wasteland with few professors willing to stay or relocate.

We can’t afford to let an Iowa value slip away as Republicans sow the wind and invite a whirlwind to blow away our Field of Dreams.

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and retired after 38 years of being connected to public schools.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.