Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds addresses supporters during a campaign event for her reelection on Friday, March 11, 2022, the Hotel at Kirkwood in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Maybe you missed it, but Gov. Kim Reynolds launched her fall re-election campaign at the Republican Party of Iowa state convention last weekend. She struck a positive tone in her assessment of Iowa public schools.
Yeah, she really didn’t. Not even close.
“Drag shows for young kids, pornographic books in school libraries, elementary school lessons on pronouns. And, sadly, the list goes on,” Reynolds told the convention.
“This has to stop. Ultimately, we’re going to make sure that every parent has a choice in their child’s education,” Reynolds said.
Rather than pitch her plan to provide $55 million in public education funds for private school vouchers by touting any educational merits, the governor once again portrayed it as an escape hatch for kids to flee porn-ridden dens of iniquity. Transgender students are a threat. Books are a threat. Heck, the notion of a nation unafraid to face its history, that cherishes free expression and protects civil rights is a threat.
This has to stop, the governor says.
A couple of days later, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Deidre DeJear stopped in Cedar Rapids on her Reynolds Report Card tour. She doesn’t think much of Reynolds’ “school choice” voucher plan, which would provide bucks to 10,000 students while taking money away from schools that serve 485,000.
“One hundred percent of our students need the undivided attention of our governor in order to improve their opportunity within the education system,” DeJear said, according to The Gazette’s Tom Barton.
“Are we willing to fight for that common ground?” DeJear said. “To be real? To talk about the real issues that Iowans are facing, not the ones that people want to use to divide us like what bathroom somebody goes to.”
Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann offered His typical measured, nuanced response to DeJear’s report card tour.
“DeJear, who has received the endorsement of tyrannical teacher unions, will never stand up for our state’s students or their parents. To DeJear, teacher unions are in control — not Iowans. That’s not the kind of education policy Iowans want out of their governor ,” Kaufmann said in a statement likely transcribed from a bullhorn.
Kaufmann praised Reynolds’ education record, including her use of executive dicts seizing local control from school districts during the pandemic, banning mask requirements and defending parents’ rights, including the ones who have dabbled in Q-Anon while portraying mask rules as child abuse. He didn’t mention the 2.5 percent increase in public school funding, trailing record inflation, while the state sits on a big surplus and hands out tax cuts benefiting the wealthiest Iowans.
That’s quite a public education record.
“Gov. Reynolds is the only candidate running for governor who will defend freedom, the voices of parents, and who will fight for your family’s safety, your future, and your hard-earned paycheck,” Kaufmann crrowed.
Don’t buy into their version of freedom? Your choice is to get lost.
How about a plan to Improve public schools? Nah. They’re a lost cause. Full of lib indoctrination and litter boxes. And those tyrannical teachers unions.
Never mind that in 2017, the Republican Legislature shredded collective bargaining rights for public school teachers and staff in retaliation for unions’ support of Democrats. The GOP has lowballed school funding increases since they took over the Statehouse. And, of course, the Republican president of the Iowa Senate says educators have a “sinister agenda” to harm kids. The teaching ranks are riddled with groomers, socialists and porn-peddlers. We need to yank away already scarce resources from public schools and hand the dollars over to private schools, where no indoctriination happens, ever.
Many schools, rural and urban, are struggling. And we have a crisis-level teacher shortage. Clearly, the fault of tyrannical unions.
Whenever these issues come up, I think of my parents. Both were public school teachers. My mom taught kindergarten in the 50s and 60s in Iowa. My dad taught science at a small, rural school and eventually became a guidance counselor at my hometown high school. He also coached and taught driver’s education for decades.
He used to tell me stories of the good old days before tyrannical teachers’ unions gained clout at the bargaining table. Before that we had tyrannical administrators who could fire teachers for just about any reason they could dream up. We had school boards packed with frugal farmers who saw no reason to give teachers raises. Good times.
It wasn’t until 1972 that the Iowa State Education Association won a court ruling barring districts from forcing pregnant teachers to resign. It was upheld by the Iowa Supreme Court in 1975. Collective bargaining came in 1974.
My dad left for school early and usually got home late, after basketball practice, working a track meet or some other after school duty. In the summer, he’d rise even earlier to teach the driver’s ed in the morning and would come home late after a softball game on the road. He and my mother went above and beyond for the kids who needed them. It’s impossible to list all the ways.
This is my first Father’s Day without my dad. His work makes me proud.
So when I hear Reynolds reduce all the hard work educators do to cruel sound bites, the sacrifices they make and the advocacy they pursue on behalf of students, it’s beyond maddening. It’s outrageous and irresponsible at a time when some Americans believe violence is “legitimate political discourse.”
The governor should be ashamed. Of course, she’s not. Not even close.
(319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@the gazette.com