Monday morning I was half listening to Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition when I heard Iowa news reporter Joyce Russell tell a short story on the annual standoff on public school funding in Iowa. The story was an interview with Iowa House speaker Kraig Paulsen. It was a short story, but it had one line in there that reached out and just slapped me:
“Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen says the raises that teachers bargain for are costing too much money.”
Now that may be true. I for one do not believe so. But in the context of yet another national Republican attack on teachers led by presidential wannabe Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Paulsen’s comment came across to me not as just another statement on school funding but as an opening shot across the bow on teacher’s unions.
Rather than mentioning the legislature for very short sighted tax cuts, especially for the rich and corporations in Iowa, or many of a myriad of other reasons, Paulsen honed in on teachers and contract bargaining. Over the years Terry Branstad has made no secret of his disdain for unions. Unless you are under a rock it is hard not to notice the full out assault on unions across the country by Republicans, most recently in Illinois by newly elected Bruce Rauner and in Wisconsin by the aforementioned Scott Walker. Paulsen seems to be taking a tepid step into being one of the union busting Republicans. No doubt this will help burnish his tea party creeds as we head into the tea party caucus craziness.
In case you hadn’t heard, a week and a half ago Scott Walker slyly compared facing up to protestors, a good portion of which are made up of unions and especially teachers, in Wisconsin to potentially facing ISIS as president.
“We need have someone who leads and ultimately will send a message that not only will we protect American soil, but…freedom-loving people anywhere else in the world. We need that confidence,” he said. “If I can take on a hundred thousand protesters, I can do the same across the world.”
Even though Iowa seems to be their schools in the manner that they should, Republicans seem to think that another great idea is to take some of that small pie and give it to pay for vouchers for private schools. This is a move that will benefit mostly schools affiliated with religious institutions. Seems to me that the first amendment to the constitution addressed this long ago.
No matter how you read it, the government is not allowed to take public monies to support religious projects, whether it be schools or fake “Creation Museums.” If religious education costs are too high and legislatures, even the Iowa legislature, thinks people should have a choice to send their children to such institutions, may we recommend they work to raise wages in this state for workers. Helping unions grow would be a good way to do this. Maybe this would be an incentive for Walmart, McDonald’s, Burger King and all the other low wage, or temp agencies to raise their wages. I suggest Republicans work on that instead.