Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds was given a national platform Tuesday and she used a portion of it to elevate the parental rights argument Republicans nationwide are using to remake public schools more to their liking.
Reynolds, who is expected to announce her intention to run for a second full term as governor, was chosen by the Republican Party to deliver its response to President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union Address.
From outside the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines, Reynolds attacked Biden on a number of issues including inflation, the Afghanistan withdrawal, COVID regulations, and more, but also took time to tee up talking points that helped elect a Republican governor in Virginia last year.
“They’re tired of politicians who tell parents they should sit down, be silent and let government control their kids’ education and future,” Reynolds said.
Since last year, Republicans across the country have pushed hard to reform public education over alleged fears of the non-existent teaching of critical race theory (CRT), public school educators indoctrinating children into Marxist beliefs, and parents not having enough say in their child’s education.
Those stoked fears have led to extremely contentious school board meetings where school board members and school officials have been threatened, which prompted the US Department of Justice to get involved, something Reynolds took aim at in her speech.
“The department of justice treats parents like domestic terrorists, but looters and shoplifters go free,” Reynolds said. “The American people are left to feel like they’re the enemy. This is not the same country it was a year ago.”
Iowa banned CRT last year under a divisive concepts bill and introduced more than 50 pieces of legislation this year to continue reforming education, although some of the bills have drawn the wrong kind of attention, such as the bill to place cameras in most public school classrooms.
Reynolds also took aim at Biden, who mentioned opening schools back up in his speech and moving away from masks, for not advocating for those things sooner. Iowa children have been back in school buildings since fall 2020 and Reynolds signed a mask mandate ban last year that prohibits school districts from instituting universal mask mandates.
“Lockdowns and school closures, they came with their own significant cost that mandates weren’t the answer,” Reynolds said. “And we actually listened to the science, especially with kids in masks and kids in schools. What happened and is still happening to our children. Over the last two years is unconscionable.”
Reynolds said those lockdowns were detrimental to kids for a number of reasons including learning loss, anxiety, isolation, and depression, and some kids may never recover.
“That’s why Iowa was the first state in the nation to require that schools open their doors,” she said. “I was attacked by the left. I was attacked by the media, but it wasn’t a hard choice. It was the right choice and keeping schools open is only the start of the pro-parent, pro-family revolution that Republicans are leading in Iowa and states across this country.
“Republicans believe that parents matter. It was true before the pandemic and it has never been more important to say, out loud, ‘Parents Matter,’ they have a right to know, and to have a say in what their kids are being taught.”
Two weeks before Reynolds’ speech, Russ Adams, superintendent of the Orange City-based MOC Floyd Valley School District, told Iowa lawmakers the transparency policies being proposed already exist and the slew of education bills being introduced were having a negative effect.
“We’re working like dogs to have additional requirements so that everybody has access to what they already have access to,” he said. “You may not intend to say you don’t trust educators, but I’m telling you in the political environment right now, educators do not feel trusted at all. That’s sad and it’s frustrating. I gave my whole life to that profession. I have people daily talking to me about leaving the profession. Please give thought to that.”
by Ty Rushing