A private meeting Wednesday between select Marion-area parents, Gov. Kim Reynolds, and US Rep. Ashley Hinson had state Sen. Liz Mathis calling it a “secret meeting” to promote Reynolds’ “unpopular bill” on school vouchers.
Hinson disputed that, saying it was instead to hear concerns from parents about schools’ policies on transgender students. However, handouts passed at the meeting with Reynolds’ name at the top were clearly promoting her “school choice” bill.
We got a handout from the meeting, which pushes private schools. pic.twitter.com/aNSVwX8ikJ
— Ethan Stein (@EthanSteinTV) May 4, 2022
Mathis, a Democrat running to unseat Hinson in Iowa’s northeast congressional district, blasted the meeting—which did not appear on Reynolds’ public schedule—as “secret” and speculated it was regarding “private school voucher funding,” a bill that has stalled in the GOP-dominated Iowa Legislature for its failure to attract votes from some rural Republicans.
“It’s clear the Governor cannot convince members of her own party to pass this unpopular bill, so she’s enlisted help,” Mathis said in a statement Wednesday. “The Governor and Hinson should be spending time visiting classrooms and improving our public schools for the vast majority of Iowa students, rather than trying to sell a plan that will strip money away.”
According to KCRG, around 100 people attended the meeting, and were handed flyers emblazoned with the governor’s name and titled, “How School Choice Benefits Iowa’s Education System.” The documents, shared with reporters who KCRG said were barred from attending, argue for the bill Reynolds is pushing.
Asked about the school voucher issue on a call with reporters Thursday morning, Hinson said the meeting was instead related to recently approved Linn-Mar school district policies regarding transgender students.
“One woman who has autistic children was telling me that she has spent more than 10 years teaching her kids about proper behavior at school … and making sure they know which bathroom to use, so they don’t do anything inappropriate,” she said. “Now she’s concerned because of this policy and because the school won’t tell her what’s going on, that this could have a negative impact on her family.”
When asked to clarify what parents were being prevented from knowing, Hinson said parents would “not be informed” related to their children’s desires to “change their pronouns or their gender identity.”
“This is a place where parents need to have this information when it comes to their kids’ well-being, mental health and physical health,” she said. “And the fact that they have moved to keep … these plans secret from parents, that’s what parents were concerned about yesterday—that they aren’t being told what’s going on.”
She said parents from other school districts surrounding Linn-Mar, including Cedar Rapids, were also at the meeting, “concerned because these schools may have not codified these policies, but they are allowing them to happen in classrooms and in school bathrooms.”
“One parent actually spoke yesterday that she’s reached out to the school principal, who told her, ‘So what, you should just move your kid.’ That is an unacceptable response in my mind,” Hinson said. “These are our kids as parents; these kids do not belong to schools, and they do not belong to the government.”
Some Linn-Mar parents said they weren’t notified about the meeting.
Why was I, a Linn-Mar parent, not notified about this meeting with my elected officials in a public building discussing policies that affect my children? @LMTVNews @LinnMarNews @LMSchoolBoard @LinnMarFound https://t.co/BZL0ckTj3x
— Katherine (@Adayania1) May 4, 2022
Nor were all parents of linn mar students invited…I would have been there in a heartbeat today because I was already off bc I took my kid on a college visit this morning. But my kid is also one of those kids they are "afraid" of" 🙄
— Katie 🌻🇺🇦🌈 (@NeymeyerKatie) May 5, 2022
This must have been by invitation only, because not all Linn-Mar parents were informed of this meeting.
Linn-Mar SD is OUTSTANDING when it comes to informing and involving parents. https://t.co/Gdmc0CaY4f
— Doug Lane (@thedouglane) May 4, 2022
Mathis’ team didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the transgender student issue.
The Linn-Mar school board has resisted the characterization that its policies regarding transgender students are secretive or anti-parent.
“The Linn-Mar Community School district supports our transgender youth and their right to be treated fairly and equitably,” the school board said in a statement on its website.
“The board understands that we are better when we focus on what unites us and oppose any legislation passed in the spirit of othering any group of students,” the statement continued. “As we have in the past, the district will continue to seek ways to reinforce our commitment to ensuring that trans students are treated as respected members of our school community.”
By Amie Rivers
Iowa Starting Line is part of an independent news network and focuses on how state and national decisions impact Iowans’ daily lives. We rely on your financial support to keep our stories free for all to read. You can contribute to us here. Also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.