Once again the Iowa legislature is in session with an overwhelming Republican trifecta for passing bills. They have a wide majority in both Houses and a governor whose only concern seems to be pleasing the extreme right of the Republican Party that answers to Trump. Legislation in Iowa anymore seems less geared to local needs and more geared to driving a national agenda.
For those of us who have lived here a long time have seen a once proud prairie state transformed into yet another small state that toes the Republican Party line of low wages, low taxes for the rich and deteriorating infrastructure. Our small towns and school systems are barely surviving as Republicans in the legislature inflict one blow after another.
As it has been for many years, Iowa’s school systems are going to be getting whacked by the legislature. What kind of things do they have in mind? Well there is the annual “we will not give you enough money to keep running the way you are” bill.
With inflation running around 7%, Iowa Republicans tells schools to live with 2.25%. That is it. If the schools don’t like it, tough. And to add insult to injury, there will be a clause in the funding bill to send public money to private schools should a family decide to enroll their child in private schools.
Therefore Iowa will continue a long pattern of underfunding the schools. Local schools will also have the money they receive transferred to private schools should any of their children opt to go to those private schools. Private schools are not answerable to school boards. Also, taxpayers have no option to not support these private schools. The state is handing out our tax money to private schools.
The Covid pandemic has also given Republicans an opening to inflict damage on local schools in Iowa. For a party that claims to be 100% behind local control has done everything it can to destroy local control in anything related to Covid. The state has taken away local school boards ability to try to keep the pandemic under control by outlawing mask mandates. This not only puts children in jeopardy, but it also certainly endangers teachers.
Just to add another danger to sending children to public schools, Republicans in the legislature are currently pushing a bill that would not allow the Covid vaccine to be a mandated vaccine in any school district. Really strange that a vaccine that has been proven over and over and over to be one of the most safe and effective vaccines ever would be outlawed as mandatory by a group that is supposed to be working in the public interest.
As a side note on the Covid vaccine for school children, it is notable that the vaccination rate for school children age 5 to 11 in Iowa is just 19%. That means that four in 5 parents IN IOWA does not care enough about their children to get them vaccinated against a disease which is deadly short term and for which we have no idea what the long term effects may be. But we do know that the disease is currently spreading mostly through the unvaccinated population, no matter what age they are.
From Paul Brennan at The Little Village:
“Iowa law requires student verification of proper immunizations against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, and varicella to enroll in school,” as the Iowa City Community School District explains on its website. “At least one dose of each immunization must be given before starting school.”
There are further state-imposed vaccination requirements for students entering seventh grade (meningococcal vaccine, as well as a tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis booster shot) and incoming high school seniors “need proof of two doses of meningococcal (A, C W, Y) vaccine, or one dose if received when the student was 16 years of age or older.”
HF 2040 is sponsored by 30 of the House’s 60 Republicans, including Rep. Henry Stone of Forest City and Rep. Skyler Wheeler of Orange City, both of whom were on the three-person subcommittee that approved the bill.
“This is about a parent’s choice of what they give their children and that no child should be subject to getting an education based on this immunization itself,” Stone said during the subcommittee hearing.
As I mentioned before, the Covid vaccine has been proven to be one of the safest and most effective vaccines ever. Why the state would want to interfere with a vaccination that will have good consequences not only now but long into the future is fodder for speculation.
As if all that weren’t enough, schools are now having staffing shortages. Odd that educated people would not want to work in an environment where they could get caught in the pandemic. Rather than working on making Iowa schools more optimal environments to work in to induce staff to return to the classroom Republicans have a much worse idea.
And lest we not forget that Republicans are working on a bill to charge teachers with distributing obscenity if one of the books a teacher assigns ends up on the Republican banned book list.
Oh and don’t forget that just this week the bill to put spy cams in every classroom was finally withdrawn. Besides the insane interference that would cause, that was also to be paid with with money for the local schools.
Instead of having people trained in education as teachers, Republicans will open teaching positions to those who have “life experience.” Expect those “life experiences” to be pretty fluid as fewer and fewer young people stay away from education as a career due to less and less desirable environments and the constant problem of low pay.
Once again Iowa’s Republicans are dealing with a problem by making it decidedly worse and ignoring the real problem. Instead they try to impose answers designed to turn a once well run and efficient public system into a “starved beast” that will eventually be killed by starving it of money and decent environment. As the “starved beast” dies it will be replaced by a privatized entity that will have fewer rules and not be run with public input or with concern for the public good. Profits will be the guiding principle.