Some Senate Republicans must be feeling pretty cranky following the statewide outcry over Governor Terry Branstad’s veto of the $56 million one-time funding for K-12 education. Vaughn Gross, a teacher in Black Hawk County, got a rather unpleasant reply from Republican State Senator David Johnson when he emailed him about the need for a special session to overturn the vetoes. Johnson told Gross to “quit whining” and complained about the expense Johnson had incurred from the extended legislative session this year.
Gross emailed Johnson and other Republican State Senators about his disappointment in the Governor’s veto, and noted how he personally pays over $2,000 each year out-of-pocket to supply his own classroom. “On the morning [of the veto] I went in to put some orders in for my classes and went home to find out that the veto happened,” Gross said in an interview with Starting Line this afternoon. “I still don’t know what that’s going to do with the finances.”
That spurred Gross into action. “It got me thinking, so I started doing more research on that portion, I think it was House File 666,” Gross explains. “On the House side it passed 87-4, so I was a little less worried about that. Then I looked at the Senate, and it was 27-23. So I figured if there is a special session, that’s where there’s going to be a problem. So I contacted the 23 Senators and sent an email out to all of them.”
Senator Johnson, who represents the northwest Iowa counties of Lyon, Osceola, Dickinson, Clay and Palo Alto counties, replied to Gross’ email, but not quite in the way Gross expected.
“Good to hear your view,” Johnson began in his response. “But apparently you lack the courage to tell us where you are from and where you teach. BTW, the session extended by the Democrats unnecessarily cost me that same $2,000. My money, not taxpayers’. ”
“Quit whining,” the email concluded. “Kind but skeptical regards, David Johnson.”
“I was shocked by Senator Johnson’s response,” Gross says. “It’s inappropriate. It doesn’t matter what the topic is or who sent it, it’s an inappropriate response … I’m more concerned about the issue, but it’s not an acceptable response.”
Gross notes that he did also get a response from Senator Tim Kraayenbrink, a Republican Senator from the Fort Dodge area, but noted his reply was “fact-based, opinion-based and nice and civil.” In subsequent emails with Johnson, Gross says the tone became better and more constructive.
“I know he had this one-time expense perhaps for his $2,000, but this is ongoing for me – every single year I’ve taught,” Gross explains of the difficulties he’s faced as a public schools teacher. “I’ve taught there about five years now, every year is about $2,000 or more. I can’t afford next year. I don’t have my second full-time job anymore, just trying to focus on school. So I’m hoping funding is there.”
Branstad’s veto of the school funding was one of several that wiped out all the major concessions made to Democrats and education advocates this year, reverting education spending to a paltry 1.25% increase for the upcoming school year. Senate and House Democrats have called for a special session to override the vetoes, but require 2/3 of each chamber to sign off on such a move. Johnson, for one, clearly does not seem very interested in that.
Here is Vaughn’s original email to the Republican Senators, which he shared on his Facebook page:
I am deeply disappointed with the nay vote you casted for funding education in our state. I encourage each of you to re-evaluate your vote and help call a special session to fund our schools.
I personally have paid over $2000 from my own pocket each and every year of teaching to minimally supply my own personal classroom.
This is unacceptable. While you may see numbers in the budget, it does not diminish the need for supplies. Far too often teachers themselves make up the difference. Your vote of nay will either hurt our children by not supplying them with the materials they need or hurt the educator that funds these on their own to make up for your shortcomings.
Thank you and please reconsider,
Bret Hayworth of the Sioux City Journal spoke with Senator Johnson later on today:
— Bret Hayworth (@SCJBretH) July 9, 2015
by Pat Rynard