Reynolds Attack on Public Education – Northern Iowan
Since November 6, 2018, public education in Iowa has been increasingly criticized, politicized, and ostracized by Governor Kim Reynolds and Republicans in the Iowa Congress. According to the Des Moines Register, 94% of Iowan students attend public schools. Bills cutting funding and putting pressure on teachers affect the next generation of leaders, doctors, farmers and educators.
Several bills introduced in the Iowa Congress have received local media attention, such as Senate Study Bill 3080 (SSB 2080), which requires public school districts to publish their curriculum, libraries, and titles of books used in classrooms. Not only that, SSB 3080 will provide public funding for scholarships to students who wish to attend private schools in Iowa. They would also be required to maintain a database of these materials for up to five years. The Iowa Senate also introduced Senate Study Bill 3085, which allows a school district’s board of trustees to not pay compensation to substitute teachers in the district, even if they hold a teaching license. HF 2060 requires that every textbook used in a school be approved by the Iowa Department of Education. In addition to prosecuting teachers, substitute teachers, and administrators, the Iowa House of Representatives later turned against students, introducing HF 2309, banning the participation of transgender athletes in the sport in which they identify.
According to US News, 22% of students at the University of Northern Iowa pursue a degree in education, which is more than any other field here at UNI. While UNI is known for its curriculum and has received many accolades for it, there is no curriculum that will prepare students for the world of pressure the Iowan government enforces. By further politicizing the classroom, the Iowan GOP is making it harder for K-12 students to learn. Red tape is a term used to refer to the number of hurdles a person may have to jump through to complete something at the federal level. The proposed bills bring bureaucracy into the schools themselves. As someone who fell in love with the rows upon rows of my elementary school library, the attack on the books in these bills is stark. State legislators should promote literacy, not hinder the process.
Beyond the attacks on literacy, students and teachers, we are brought to the overarching topic: public education matters. As mentioned above, 94% of students in Iowa will receive a public education. Bills introduced in the Iowa Legislature do not strengthen the education that the vast majority of Iowa students receive, but rather weaken it. The Iowa Legislature should not be investing money to help students go through private school; they should make sure Iowa taxpayers’ money goes to keep the schools they went to open.
What the Iowa Legislature should be doing is buying school library books with that money, not putting books out. They should replace textbooks with this money, without making it more difficult to access them. They should fund school sports and arts programs with that money, not ban students from playing sports. They should fund 94% of Iowa students in their public education system. They should focus on giving them the best possible education, with as many resources as they can muster. That’s where Iowan taxpayers’ money is supposed to go, not private school scholarship funds. Private schools have never been a concern for the Iowa Legislature, and they never should be. They must focus on the students they are meant to serve, and the students, teachers, and administrators they are currently failing.