In her Condition of the State address Tuesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds made mixed gestures to Iowa educators.
On one hand, she thanked them for their hard work during the pandemic. On the other, she highlighted policies that will shift funds away from public schools and target teachers who promote diversity with diverse books and lessons.
The Iowa State Education Association (ISEA), the state’s teacher union, released a statement highlighting that confusing message.
“Tonight, Governor Kim Reynolds launched an all-out assault on Iowa’s public schools. She proposed using taxpayer funding for private and religious schools and continues to politically inflame with divisive claims,” said Mike Beranek in the statement.
“Right now, Iowa’s public schools need our collective focus. Nearly two years of pandemic pressure, political jabs, and years of making do without, our public education system deserves thoughtful, collaborative solutions, shared responsibility, consideration of proven educational strategies and programs and policies which grow and expand excellent education every day for our children. We do not need a private school voucher program which robs finite taxpayer funding and funnels it to select private and religious places without taxpayer oversight.”
He said they do appreciate the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund stipends, which would provide teachers a $1,000 retention bonus if they stick around for next school year. However, Beranek said it’s not enough to counteract the attacks on public education.
Reynolds said she wants to champion parents’ choices when it comes to what their children learn, and that education should match their values.
“And sadly, in some cases, school administrators are ignoring the problem or just not listening,” Reynolds said. “Some even believe that it’s a school’s responsibility to not just teach kids to learn but to control what they learn—to push their worldview.”
Reynolds specifically referred to books in school libraries that have been challenged for sexual content in recent months.
“There was nothing in there that talked about truly appreciating our teachers,” said Iowa House Minority Leader Rep. Jennifer Konfrst in response to the address. “It was just mainly about throwing them a bone if they stayed and worked but nothing about people calling them people with a ‘sinister agenda’ on the floor of the Senate, for example.”
She emphasized parental choice already exists and her children’s teachers have always been accessible for questions or concerns.
“If there are concerns in a community, there are already mechanisms to allow people to call into question a book, for example, it’s called a school board,” Konfrst said. “Let’s let our school boards and our local school administrators handle these issues rather than take a one-size-fits-all approach.”
Konfrst also had this response on Twitter.
The same teachers who were accused by a Republican leader of having a “sinister agenda” yesterday? The same teachers who are exhausted, but still there for kids every day? The same teachers who can’t be trusted to teach without politicians interfering? https://t.co/9bD3ccleoF
— Rep. Jennifer Konfrst (@KonfrstForHouse) January 12, 2022
Iowa Senate minority leader Zach Wahls also had a response.
We have our answer – Kim Reynolds doubles down on Jake Chapman's extreme attacks on teachers. Shocking, but not surprising. https://t.co/R05Pqpv7Ad
— Zach Wahls (@ZachWahls) January 12, 2022
He then shared a message he received from a teacher in response.
A direct message I received from an Iowa teacher in a small city during the Govs speech this evening: pic.twitter.com/xVsAayKsi9
— Zach Wahls (@ZachWahls) January 12, 2022
Other educators on social media said the current state of education in Iowa is giving them second thoughts about the profession, and Reynolds’ speech didn’t change that.
They seem to want to push people out of teaching. I’m almost 20 years in and for the life of me I don’t think I would go into this profession if I was in college now.
— GamingGains (@GamingandGains) January 12, 2022
I’m a teachers aide and getting my elem. education degree and it’s making me question WTF I’m doing every single day
— Emma (@thewrongwright) January 12, 2022
by Nikoel Hytrek