Stealing Is Stealing

Prairie Dog

From the January 2023 issue of  The Prairie Progressive, Iowa’s oldest progressive newsletter. The PP is  funded entirely by reader subscription,  available only in hard copy for $15/yr.  Send check to PP, Box 1945, Iowa City 52244. Click here for archived issues.

by Nate Willems

The recent report by Common Good Iowa finding that Iowa workers are robbed of $900 million annually by their employers should be a wake-up call for all of us. This report was the first of its kind in ten years and found a 50% increase in stolen wages in Iowa over a decade.

Most of the $900 million in stolen wages are a result of overtime violations—failure to pay time and a half after 40 hours’ work in a week to eligible employees. There are variety of ways people are cheated of overtime wages: improperly classifying employees as FLSA-exempt (often called “salaried” workers); improperly classifying employees as independent contractors; illegal deductions from workers’ checks; time clock shaving; etc.

Common Good Iowa also found an additional $240 million in minimum wage violations. These stem from some of the same tactics as in overtime violations but also include tip pool violations. For example, wait staff at a restaurant can be paid a low minimum wage and can be required to pool tips, but it becomes illegal when management also allows non-tipped employees and managers to share in the tips given to wait staff. Food service represents the sector of the economy with the highest rate of violations according to the report.

Enforcement by the State of Iowa is almost laughable. In a state with 3.2 million people, you can count the number of Iowa Workforce Development employees fighting wage theft with your fingers. Furthermore, even when IWD does enforce the law it only seeks to recoup wages and not the liquidated—or penalty—damages the law allows. In other words, without liquidated damages the worst-case scenario for the employer is they receive a zero-interest loan from their workers for a year or more.

Private attorneys like myself bring lawsuits and hopefully this also plays some deterrent to bad employers. One victory was achieved in 2022 when an Iowa federal judge ruled that an employer cannot skirt liquidated damages liability by simply paying the wages illegally late.

However, as the report indicates, we are all just playing whacka-mole. The financial risks of breaking the law, the liability on bad employers who steal wages, are insufficient. That is why the annual costs to Iowa workers have increased from $600 million ten years ago to $900 million now.

Rather than waiting for a Republican legislature to strengthen our wage payment laws or for Gov. Reynolds to devote more staff to tackling the problem, there is a more immediate solution: criminal prosecution. Iowa Code defines “theft” at § 714.1. It states, “a person commits theft when the person… obtains the labor or services of another… by deception.” If the theft is greater than $1500, that is a Class D felony punishable by up to five years in jail. If the theft is greater than $10,000, that is a Class C felony punishable by up to ten
years in jail.

We have laws in place to deter wage theft, but we simply need to recognize that stealing money from workers is stealing. Enforcement need not come just from bureaucrats or plaintiffs’ lawyers but must also come from police officers and prosecutors. Public protests, small actions, administrative complaints are all fine, but when an employer steals
wages we must start to file police reports. Law enforcement can learn to treat wage theft like any other type of theft, but that shift in mentality must also be first embraced by workers and activists.

—Nate Willems

Posted in Blog for Iowa | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Take Action To Stop SNAP Restrictions


Tell our lawmakers not to take food away from Iowans!

Action alert from Iowa Hunger Coalition

House File 3, which targets SNAP, Medicaid, and other public assistance programs, was introduced the first week of the 2023 Iowa legislative session and is currently assigned to the Iowa House Health and Human Services Committee.

This bill would restrict SNAP participants’ ability to make their own food choices, take food away from Iowans, and increase hunger and food insecurity in our state. The harmful proposals in the bill include:

Restricting SNAP purchases to only foods on the WIC-approved food item list.

This would severely limit the foods people could purchase with their SNAP benefits. SNAP recipients could no longer purchase meat, other than certain varieties of canned tuna and salmon. Meat, Poultry, and Seafood is the #1 food category purchased by SNAP participants nationwide, amounting to 1 in every 5 dollars of SNAP benefits spent.

Other foods that would be restricted from SNAP purchases make up a lengthy list including frozen prepared foods, butter, flour, cooking oil, herbs, spices, coffee and tea, cottage cheese, snack foods, nuts and seeds, white rice, rice noodles, jam, canned fruits and vegetables, soup, condiments, white bread, meal kits, bottled water, sliced cheese, crackers, and on and on. It’s much easier to list what you still would be able to purchase with SNAP than to list all the items you could not.

Learn more about this bad bill

HOW TO HELP

Real stories from real Iowans can stop HF 3, but legislators need to hear loud and clear that we will not stand for this attack on SNAP and the rely on it. You can help stop this bad bill by taking action:

Contact the 39 co-sponsors of House File 3 (below) and the members of the House Health and Human Services Committee. Let them know you do not support the efforts to make it more difficult to access SNAP and other public assistance programs in Iowa and ask them not to advance the bills out of committee.

List of HF 3 Co-Sponsors

Rep. Pat Grassley – pat.grassley@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Steven Holt – steven.holt@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Cindy Golding – cindy.golding@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Skyler Wheeler – skyler.wheeler@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Henry Stone – henry.stone@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Jon Dunwell – jon.dunwell@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Norlin Mommsen – norlin.mommsen@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Taylor Collins – taylor.collins@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Bill Gustoff – bill.gustoff@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Dean Fisher – dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Tom Moore – tom.moore@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Tom Jeneary – tom.jeneary@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Ken Carlson – ken.carlson@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Mike Vondran – mike.vondran@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Luana Stoltenberg – luana.stoltenberg@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Derek Wulf – derek.wulf@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Jeff Shipley – jeff.shipley@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Steven Bradley – steven.bradley@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Brad Sherman – brad.sherman@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Dave Deyoe – dave.deyoe@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Martin Graber – martin.graber@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. John Wills – john.wills@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Matthew Rinker – matthew.rinker@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Phil Thompson – phil.thompson@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Craig Johnson – craig.johnson@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Austin Harris – austin.harris@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Brooke Boden – brooke.boden@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Carter Nordman – carter.nordman@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Ray Sorensen – ray.sorensen@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Dan Gehlbach – dan.gehlbach@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Bobby Kaufmann – bobby.kaufmann@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Anne Osmundson – anne.osmundson@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Charley Thomson – charley.thomson@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Mark Thompson – mark.thompson@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Devon Wood – devon.wood@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Heather Hora – heather.hora@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Matt Windschitl – matt.windschitl@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Jacob Bossman – jacob.bossman@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Thomas Gerhold – thomas.gerhold@legis.iowa.gov

Help raise awareness. Tell your friends and family about the attacks on SNAP and encourage them to take action as well. Share about what’s happening in the legislature on social media. Write a letter to the editor and submit it to your local paper.

Share your story with us. Would you or someone you know be personally affected by these proposed policy changes? We want to hear from you. Fill out a short form to share your story with us.

Questions?  Contact us at iowahungercoalition@gmail.com.

Posted in Blog for Iowa | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Changing Iowa And Its Public Schools

One-room school house

Iowa Democrats took a shellacking during the 2010 general election for U.S. Senate. We ran Des Moines attorney Roxanne Conlin against incumbent Chuck Grassley in a historic campaign. Grassley won 718,215 votes to Conlin’s 371,686.

In an email to supporters after the election, Conlin wrote, in part:

I don’t want you to be sad about the outcome of this election. There are other reasons to run besides winning. We talked issues that otherwise might not have gotten a hearing, we met lots of young women and girls who loved seeing an Iowa woman running for high office. And I hope that we motivated a lot of voters who would not have otherwise come out to the polls.

We stood strong for our principles. And we conducted our campaign with dignity.

[…]

As Ted Kennedy famously said, “the work continues, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream will never die.”

Email from Roxanne Conlin dated Nov. 4, 2010.

I would rather Conlin had won that election.

The Iowa Republican legislature and governor seek to change how schools are funded. It is the latest in a long-term agenda to radically remake Iowa into something completely different from the one in which I grew up. Since Jan. 1, 2017, Republicans held a trifecta, controlling the governorship, and both chambers of the legislature. They are remaking everything about state government, and in turn, about Iowa. Schools are just one part of their agenda.

We consider Republican legislators to be stingy in their support of public schools, although they say each year they have been generous. The fact is the cost per pupil in public schools is rising much faster than what the legislature provided each year in funding. Here is a a chart of expenses from the legislature’s website. The funding shortfall seems obvious.

What exactly do Republicans think they are funding in public schools? A change in education that walks away from basic assumptions about the long-time role of public schools in society. Let’s go in the Wayback Machine to the 1950s thanks to Frances FitzGerald’s 1979 book America Revised:

There is a growing consensus that the schools should assume a primary responsibility for basic functions of education which were once almost entirely performed by family and church. These include moral and spiritual education, character education, education for home and family living, and other aspects of personal and social adjustment.

Unnamed Report by the National Council for the Social Studies quoted by Frances FitzGerald in America Revised.

Today’s Republicans reject what used to be a consensus about education. During the previous two legislative sessions a proposal to advance public funding of private schools was held at bay because it is widely unpopular.

Governor Kim Reynolds, during her swearing in speech on Friday, Jan. 13, addressed what she is doing and why she persists in providing public funds for private education.

“Trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Psalm 32:8 

Having that perspective has given me freedom. A freedom to be bold and not beholden. 

Not beholden to others, to elections, or even to what’s popular. Instead, I have the freedom to do what I believe is right. Right for our state, right for our citizens, and, most of all, right for our children—regardless of the personal consequences to me.  

Press Release from the Iowa Governor’s office, Jan. 13, 2023.

The text of Senate Study Bill 1022, the Students First Act, was filed shortly after the legislature convened. While the governor’s proposal has not been popular, it may pass this session. The question and answer on last week’s Iowa Press explains.

Erin Murphy It’s bigger (comparing previous, similar legislation to SSB1022). Is it a slam dunk in your caucus? Is this bill your expectation that it will pass?

Pat Grassley And I think you touched on something that’s so important where the dynamic has fundamentally changed since last session. There’s been an election, and this issue has been out there. Candidates for the House all across the state were very successful and almost all of them at least campaigned on this part of their campaign strategy and their platform moving forward.

Iowa Press, Jan 13, 2023. Link

Regardless that the governor believes this path for public education is the right one, and Republicans campaigned on public funding for private education and won, the bill is flawed. It is also expensive, spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the first four years alone. I wrote in opposition to SSB1022, attempting to address the flaws in the bill as well as the need for legislators to work together on resolving the shortfall in Iowa public education funding:

I oppose SSB1022, The Students First Act, as written. I was educated first through twelfth grades in a private school without direct public funding. Our church paid the entire cost of physical plant and operating costs, including teachers. If the current Republican majority campaigned on change as outlined in SSB1022, and were elected because of it, some form of the legislation may pass despite protests. The bill’s language was filed just this week. I encourage Republicans to work with Democrats to make the final product much better than it is today. Consider and accept amendments now, and during debate. If Iowa will go down this path and give public funds to private schools, inclusion of the broadest possible input is needed. There is no hurry to get this done. Take your time. Do what’s right for Iowa. For me, that means rejecting the bill as written.

Public comments on SSB1022 in the Iowa Legislature. Link

We shall see what Republicans do during public dialogue on SSB1022. If it becomes law, Iowa will change in ways no one anticipated. The reasonable approach to elections exhibited by talented yet losing candidates like Roxanne Conlin will not be enough.

Posted in Education | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Learning The Right Lessons From History

A mural in Atlanta depicts Martin Luther King, Coretta Scott King, civil rights leaders, and masses of ordinary marchers. (Shutterstock)


This MLK Day, Let’s Learn the Right Lessons from History

Dr. King was a giant, but history is also made by ordinary people standing up for what’s right. That takes all of us.

By Svante Myrick | January 11, 2023.  Distributed by OtherWords.org

Every year, the arrival of the Martin Luther King holiday calls us to pause and reflect on Dr. King’s legacy. And every year, I’m struck by the same thing: as sincere as we are in our reverence for Dr. King, we keep learning the wrong lessons not just from his life but from history writ large.

Let me explain.

In my life, in our lives as Americans, there are people and stories that inspire us. The stories go something like this: “Abraham Lincoln freed enslaved people,” or “Dr. King gave a wonderful speech and we had civil rights in our nation.”

They are nice stories. But Lincoln didn’t end slavery alone. And Dr. King, throughout his incredible life and career, was supported by the work of thousands of unknown and largely unsung people who made his accomplishments possible.

These people were the women who set up the chairs in the church halls for meetings, the men who drove supporters to events and voters to the polls, and the grandmothers who called friends and neighbors to gather crowds to hear Dr. King’s message. They were the people who risked their lives in marches, faced arrest and abuse by police, and battled segregation in their everyday lives.

By the time Dr. King stood up to speak — and certainly by the time he gave his most famous speech on the National Mall — he stood on the shoulders of thousands of people who worked, organized, and sacrificed.

That makes all the difference in the lesson we should learn from Dr. King’s life and from the lives of other great leaders. Too often, the morals of the stories that elevate one person are this: “We need another hero,” or “If only we had another Dr. King alive today.”

But that is the wrong lesson.

Why? Because then we sit on our hands waiting for that person to come along and work miracles. We elect a president and we say, “We can’t wait to see how he saves us.” In reality, we are all needed to save us. No leader can accomplish great things alone.

There is a debate over this principle in the academic world today, in the pushback against the so-called “Great Man Theory” of history. The Great Man Theory is exactly what it sounds like: attributing all the advances of history to the genius of individuals like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Winston Churchill.

It is how most of us were taught history. The debate and pushback rightly center on questioning a model that overwhelmingly exalts white men while ignoring the contributions of other peoples. But we need to remember that our more recent heroes did not act alone, either.

Every successful person who commits to making life better for people — and for that matter, every destructive person who harms people and communities — does so with the contributions of numerous others. We can see this in our own lives.

In my case, I spent my early childhood in a homeless shelter. Because of the work and dedication of my family, the elected officials who created the Pell Grants that allowed me to go to college, and the donors who believed in me, I was able to grow up, graduate from Cornell University, and be elected to successive terms as mayor of Ithaca, New York.

We are all part of a network of relationships that influences us. We are all connected, indispensable to one another and to each of our individual stories.

Dr. King was a giant who touched the lives of millions. As we honor him, let’s also honor those who traveled with him on his journey. And remember the next chapter in history will be written by, and with, all of us.

OtherWords commentaries are free to re-publish in print and online — all it takes is a simple attribution to OtherWords.org. To get a roundup of our work each Wednesday, sign up for our free weekly newsletter here.

Posted in Blog for Iowa | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Labor Gets A Rare Victory

While you weren’t looking, the Biden administration ended involuntary servitude

It happens so seldom that when labor does get a victory it is often overlooked. In the era of multi-billionaires and Mergers & Acquisitions worth hundreds of billions victory that may put a few more bucks in the workers pocket is almost not news worthy.

But once again, the Biden Administration is looking out for all of us little guys. Cutting through the decades of rules that have screwed workers is a daunting task. However every once in a while we get a bone thrown our way.

Last week amid the grand embarrassment of Republicans publicly humiliating their new leader the Biden Administration rolled back the rules on non-compete agreements. Once the domain of top level management, it seems that everyone down to the lowliest janitor has to sign one these days.

Robert Reich in his substack newsletter tells us that the days of the non-compete agreement may be coming to an end:

Some 30 million Americans are trapped by contracts that say if they leave their current job, they can’t take a job with a rival company or start a new business of their own. These clauses deprive workers of higher wages and better working conditions. In effect, they’re a form of involuntary servitude.

Last week, while America was fixated on Kevin McCarthy’s travails, the Federal Trade Commission proposed a sweeping new rule that would ban these non-compete agreements.

This is a big deal. The FTC estimates that such a ban could increase wages by nearly $300 billion a year (about $2,000 per worker, on average) by allowing workers to pursue better job opportunities.

Non-competes also harm the economy as a whole, depriving growing businesses of talent and experience they need to build and expand. As historian Margaret O’Mara noted (via Matt Stoller), California’s ban on non-competes was a major reason for Silicon Valley’s success. 

The rule isn’t a sure thing. The public has 60 days to offer comment on it, after which a final rule could be published and then enforced some months after that. If you wish to leave a comment, here’s the link: https://www.regulations.gov/docket/FTC-2023-0007/document.

As Reich notes, this rule change has a tough path to become a rule, but at least there is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Please, if you have any input let the FTC know. This is a rule that needs to be changed.

Thanks to Soph0571 on democraticunderground.com

Posted in Labor | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Sunday Funday: MLK Day Edition

“I Have A Dream” (17.5 minutes) August 28, 1963:

Half of our nation still refuses to accept the humanity of those who are different from them whether it be because of color, language, religion or sexual orientation. But I still believe that Dr. King and those who follow him will prevail. They (we) simply must.

Well, looks like we are out of money Thursday. Will Republicans step up? Will pigs fly?

Here we go:

A) What was the name of the church in Atlanta that MLK was pastor of when he died?

B) Who is pastor of that church today?

C) George Santos is in the news daily. What other name did many in his district know him by?

D) The debt ceiling will be reached Thursday if nothing is done. Who is the current Treasury Secretary that will try to get us through for a. While?

E) Another airline snarl last week. What was the cause of the problems this time?

F) MLK question. What city was he studying in when he met Coretta Scott?

G) Must be some kind of record! The wife of a Republican candidate in what state voted voted for her husband 23 times in 2020?

H) Who is Robert Hur?

I) The US renamed five sites in four states to remove what word that is offensive to Native Americans last week?

J) Republicans in charge! In their first act in the US House Republicans passed a bill that would do what?

K) How did Iowa’s representatives vote on that bill?

L) Wow. The “I Have A Dream” speech will be 60 years old this year. To what young man, who would come to have Iowa ties, did MLK  give his personal copy of the speech to that day?

M) NYC’s infamous Riker’s Island got a new resident this week. Who is it?

N) Lawmakers in Missouri’s state legislature tackled the major problems first. Their first act was to initiate a dress code for whom?

O) Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds main focus this year will be on what legislation?

P) In a real win for farmers, the Farm Bureau signed an agreement with what company to allow farmers to repair their own farm equipment?

Q) The US House is toying with the idea of expunging what processes that took place during the Trump Administration?

R) The week started off with an attempted coup in what Western Hemisphere capitol that was reminiscent of our January 5th insurrection?

S) Two rock and roll deaths of note last week. One was a legendary guitarist and the other the only daughter of the King of Rock ’n’ Roll?

T) How old was MLK when he won the Nobel Peace Prize?

Jonas Salk, inventor of polio vaccine: “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

Frederick Banting, inventor of insulin: “Insulin does not belong to me. It belongs to the world.”

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel: 400% price hike on COVID vaccine is “consistent with the value.” – Warren Gunnels tweet

Answers:

A) Ebenezer Baptist Church

B) Raphael Warnock

C) Anthony Devolder. I have no idea which is his real name.

D) Janet Yellen

E) A corrupted file. Software for computers running this system is 30 years old

F) Boston, Mass.

G) Iowa! Kim Taylor, wife of Jeremy Taylor of Woodbury County

H) Robert Our is the special counsel appointed by Merrick Garland to investigate the Joe Biden document situation

I) Squaw

J) repeal the money appropriated for 87,000 new IRS agents. This law would cost some $150 billion more than it would “save.”

K) Well of course they all voted in lockstep for it

L) George Raveling Iowa’s former men’s basketball coach.

M) Allen Weisselberg

N) Women in the legislature. Seems some would sometime flash some naked arm.

O) School vouchers

P) John Deere

Q) Trump’s impeachments. Can it be done? Stay tuned

R) Basilia, Brazil

S) Guitarist Jeff Beck and daughter of Elvis Presley, Lisa Marie Presley

T) 35

“No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages has any right to continue in this country.” – FDR, 90 years ago

Remember – Republicans will hold cutting SS and Medicare hostage to keep the country from defaulting

 

Posted in #trumpresistance, Humor | Leave a comment

Democratic Leaders Reaction To Reynolds’ Voucher Plans

Who Reynolds really works for

Since the Democrats have such small numbers in both chambers of the Iowa Legislature this session and since Kim Reynolds made such a big show of personally campaigning against Republicans who had an ounce of sense and voted against her school voucher plan last session {breath} I think you can be assured their plan to dismantle Iowa’s public schools will pass. Then we will probably hear little about it again since Republicans do such a good job of controlling he news in this state.

So I would like to take time now to register Democrats statements about this plan. From state Senator Zach Wahls of Iowa City: 

“Don’t let the governor’s shell game fool you! Iowa lags the national average in per-pupil spending by $1,300 per student, and that’s what we really need to be focused on, not the governor’s shell game tonight,” Iowa Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls, of Johnson County, said. 

Wahls also released the following statement in response to the governor’s address Tuesday evening:

“Iowans did not give the governor a mandate to defund public education and weaken our community schools. Iowans did not give Republicans a mandate for more giveaways to the ultra-rich or culture wars that pit us against each other,” Wahls said. “Governor Reynolds’ speech tonight badly misread the needs of our state and the priorities of the folks she was elected to represent.”

“Senate Democrats are ready to set aside the ideological agendas, skip the special interest giveaways, and serve the needs of everyday Iowans,” Wahls said. “We hope Gov. Reynolds will join us.” 

Here’s the response from Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn:  

“Iowans are counting on us to lower costs for their families, protect their reproductive freedoms and provide every Iowa child with a world-class public education. But as usual, Kim Reynolds is only listening to special interests and her corporate donors.”

“Instead of investing in our public schools to ensure that every child’s needs are met, Kim Reynolds and Iowa Republicans are hell-bent on dumping public dollars into the coffers of unaccountable out-of-state corporations.”

“Kim Reynolds is not offering a choice. She is stacking the deck against our public schools and setting our kids and educators up for failure.”

“Iowa Democrats are committed to putting people over politics, and we won’t sit back while Kim Reynolds and Iowa Republicans chip away at the foundational principles of our state.”

Progress Iowa Executive Director Matt Sinovic issued the following statement in response to the Condition of the State:

“What we just witnessed is exactly why most Iowans are frustrated with politics and politicians like Kim Reynolds. She spent the first half of her speech settling old scores and playing petty politics, insulting anyone who has ever had the audacity to disagree with her. Then she listed off one dangerous proposal after another.

“Robbing our public schools and shifting funds to unaccountable private entities with her voucher scheme. Cutting off the right to access to reproductive health care. Putting politicians in charge of our medical decisions, not doctors and patients. Taking away any accountability of her corporate donors who harm Iowa families.

“Iowans get it. We work hard every day. We want our leaders to represent the people, not play politics with our livelihood and our lives. We are calling on every Iowan to use their voice during this legislative session. Tell Governor Reynolds and the legislature it’s time to put people ahead of politics.”

Posted in Iowa Legislature, Kim Reynolds | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reaction To Dismantling Iowa’s Public Schools

The first thought that crosses my mind when I hear about Kim Reynolds half baked scheme to take OUR tax money and hand it over to privatized schools is ‘what’s in it for her?’ There certainly isn’t anything good for it in Iowa as a whole. There may be something good in it for an individual student, but that is kind of a crap shoot.

A better bet than throwing a whole bunch of money in some scattershot attempt that maybe a few students education may be enhanced would be to fund Iowa’s schools the way they should be funded, thus raising the tide for everyone at once. As JFK once said, a rising tide lifts all boats.

Yet for some reason our governor insists that giving money to one student that they will then give to a private school is a much better idea than raising the whole system. Thus as one child’s fortunes may (or may not) be raised by this gambit, all those ‘left behind’ as it were will see their school systems fortunes suffer.

“Choice” they call it. The choice is already there. Parents can now enroll their kids in private schools. If they do so they can decide on how they wish to fund such an endeavor. Right now that does not include taking public tax dollars to fund private schools. Seems to me a better path would be to use our tax dollars to raise education levels for all students.

Strangely when the word “choice” is used in another context, the same people who are pushing “choice” for selected students refuse to allow “choice” for a woman.  

This scheme looks very similar to the Medicaid privatization scheme cooked up by Corporate Kim with her mentor Terry Branstad. They were able to take a fairly well functioning Medicaid system in Iowa and hand it over to private management companies. The cost of management of the system has exploded to 10 times what it was and that huge increase in costs was taken from the care of those in the system and handed over to very well off corporations.

Funny we seldom see any news of how poorly Iowa’s Medicaid system is doing. The Reynolds administration keeps news of the system pretty tightly locked down. Few reporters dare dig into the way the money for patient care has been squandered, else they may be locked out from access.  

I fully expect that this “school choice” boondoggle will run a similar course. Republicans in the Iowa Legislature will pass the bill overwhelmingly. Reynolds and others will sing loud praises to its potential. The money will flow into private hands and any real accounting for how the system really works will be buried.

Then come budget time every year Republicans will take more and more money from the public schools and hand it over to their buddies in the private schools. Iowa’s public schools will continue to deteriorate and this will in turn give Republican legislators an excuse to go after public schools for many invented excuses.

What the long game is for Republicans is to once more tear down a system built for the common good and turn it into yet another get-rich-quick scheme for some greasy entrepreneur. Over time Iowa’s schools will devolve into a mess. Reclaiming their once lofty standards will be out of reach. We will become yet another failed system.

Iowa’s public school system was once the very pride of Iowa. Iowa was always among the top states in education of their children. When my kids graduated from public schools in Iowa, we were still battling for the top. Now, depending on who you read Iowa is somewhere in tenth to thirtieth place.  

Why? Well as with many stories the best place to start is to follow the money. When it comes to education, Iowa’s support for education continues to drop. This latest Republican assault on school budgets ain’t going to help the system as a whole, just some individual winners.

As reported on KMTV in Omaha: 

DES MOINES, Iowa. (CBS) — Iowa has long been known for excellence in education, but lately, it’s ranking a little lower.

World Population Review puts Iowa at 13th, Wallet Hub at 19 and U.S. News and World Report ranks the state 24th.

In the 90s, the state ranked in the top five.

Margaret Buckton with Iowa School Finance Information Services says it’s not because schools are doing worse.

“But it’s interesting, iowa students are testing slightly better on their scores than they did in the 90s,” she said. “It’s not that our education system has gotten worse. It’s that others have improved and we’re not statistically significantly different than about 15 states in that middle of the pack.”

What this also does for Republicans in the legislature is cuts the ranks of teachers who may join unions. That is their idea of a win-win-win. Breaking unions while cutting public services and handing tax dollars to corporate donors: win-win-win

What is also interesting is that these privatized schools don’t have any oversight by the public. We give them our tax dollars and they do with it what they wish. They are not answerable to the public, only to whatever board they have. Yet another win for those who do not want government of the people.

Most of Iowa’s private schools (84%) are currently religious. This is bothersome since this seems to violate the the first amendment prohibition of the separation of church and state. But the Supreme Court threw a wrench into that last summer, so while it feels repugnant and slimy, SCOTUS says it is OK.

Of the 199 private religious schools in Iowa all but one are Christian. You can find a breakdown of these schools here.  

Posted in Iowa Legislature, Kim Reynolds | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Voucher Public Hearing Alert

Watch Progress Iowa’s Call to Action with House Democratic leader Rep. Jennifer Konfrst and others discussing how to take effective action during these crazy times in Iowa.

Sign up for Iowa House Dems weekly communications here.

“Whatever you hear the Republicans do not have the votes in the house right now to pass school vouchers. If they did they wouldn’t be spending $100,000 trying to convince Iowans with an ad campaign that school vouchers are good for kids.” – Jennifer Konfrst

VOUCHER PUBLIC HEARING ALERT: A public hearing has been set for Tues., January 17 at 5pm: https://fb.me/e/2fYTbmIqt. This is your time to speak out and support Iowa’s public schools. Share your thoughts, sign-up to speak, or watch live at: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/committees/publicHearings.

Posted in Blog for Iowa | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Take Meaningful Action On Kim Reynolds’ Voucher Bill

Voucher alert from the Iowa Senate Democrats. Follow Senate Dems on Facebook.

Vouchers Alert!

Kim Reynolds’ voucher scheme threatens to defund local schools, increase Iowa’s teacher shortage, and magnify inequality.

The Iowa Senate will hold a hearing tomorrow afternoon to hear what Iowans think of school vouchers. This is your chance to tell lawmakers to stop this attack on Iowa’s public schools.

2pm Thursday, Jan. 12
Attend in Person: Iowa State Capitol, Room G15
Attend via Zoom: https://bit.ly/VouchersZoom
Leave a Comment: https://bit.ly/VoucherComments
More Info: https://bit.ly/VouchersSubcommittee

 

Posted in Blog for Iowa | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment