Shuttered School Used In Iowa Senate Republicans’ Ads

Last week Starting Line pointed out the striking similarity between every Iowa Republican state senate ad. It was obvious they had filmed all of their ads in the same location with the same set of children, rather than their own home districts they’re running in.

But it led to one other interesting question: what school did they shoot the ads in? Well, it turns out they seemingly didn’t even use an actual school at all. It appears they used the offices of Victory Enterprises, the Republican consulting firm in Davenport which works out of an old school that shut down 17 years ago.

So when you see State Senator Dan Zumbach walk down a hallway with the overlaid text of “Support Our Teachers,” he’s not walking through a building that employs any educators.

Republican TV ads school 1

That’s just the lobby of Victory Enterprise’s office:

Republican TV ads school 2

When candidate Craig Johnson talks about fixing our schools, he’s standing in the hallway of a school that’s been shut down since 1999.

Craig Johnson TV ad

The entrance to Victory Enterprises
The entrance to Victory Enterprises

There were other dead giveaways in their ads of the location, like how they’re clearly in the print shop of Victory Enterprises. Several of the employees the candidates interact with when talking about small business are wearing Victory Store t-shirts:

Republican TV ads school 7

You can even see a part of a Victory Enterprises sign in the background:

Republican TV ads school 6

On this front, the ads are very honest in a way: if these Republican candidates win, Victory Enterprise’s political consulting business should do very well.

So does any of this matter? As mentioned last week, doing joint ad shoots isn’t uncommon. But Iowa Republicans, especially those in the Iowa House and Senate, have faced withering criticism for years for their refusal to adequately fund public education in Iowa. Teachers have been laid off, programs have been cut and class sizes have grown because of the meager increase in allowable growth for K-12 education insisted upon by Governor Branstad and legislative Republicans.

If the Republican candidates in these ads were to win, and the Iowa Senate shifted to Republican control, Iowa schools would certainly be worse off in the years to come. It was only thanks to Senate Democrats’ starting proposal of a 4% increase to counter House Republicans’ 1.25% increase plan for public schools that the Legislature eventually settled on a 2.25% boost this past session. Even that wasn’t nearly enough for school districts like Cedar Rapids to break even, which had to cut teaching positions. But Iowa schools would get much less if Republicans were in complete control of the Iowa Statehouse.

So some voters may find it particularly galling that they’re touting their supposed support for public education while standing in a fake school. Could they not find a school in their home district that would be willing to let them in? Would no teachers let them into their classrooms?

Using a real school for an ad shoot to talk about education is usually not difficult, and Democrats often get actual teachers and students to provide testimonials for them in their campaigns. Typically you just have to ask permission, often from the superintendent, and pay any potential rental fees. Not all allow it, but most do, treating it as no different from any other community member or organization that might rent a building.

The former school in question is H.M. Perry, an elementary school opened in 1953 and named after the local district’s superintendent then. It became incorporated to the Davenport school district several years later, and then shut down as part of a consolidation effort in 1999. The students at H.M. Perry were sent to a new, modern elementary school in nearby Buffalo.

Republican TV ads school 5

Though the shooting of the TV ad in a closed school is ironic, this doesn’t appear to be a case where the school was shut down due to lack of funding that Democrats often criticize Republican lawmakers for. It appears it was simply an older facility and there was an opportunity to transfer students over to a newly constructed one.

Still, it looks particularly awkward for all of these Iowa Senate Republican candidates to make campaign promises about supporting schools when they’re not even standing in a real one. And it doesn’t help that it’s instead in the lobby of a company that gets paid for electing Republicans who underfund education.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 9/7/16

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