Progressives sweep in Urbandale School Board race

By Amie Rivers

November 7, 2023

Progressives endorsed by the teachers union swept the Urbandale school board race, though the lone incumbent just squeaked back into her seat.

Six candidates were running for four open seats, all at-large.

Katherine Howsare, who has been on the school board for eight years—or two four-year terms—was the only incumbent school board member running. She took fourth place with 1,875 votes, or just a hair under 15% of the vote.

Carissa Williams was the top getter with 2,412 votes (19.3%), followed by Margaret Young at 2,388 votes (19.1%). Josh Van Ryswyk took the third seat, at 2,349 votes, or 18.8%.

Steve Avis and Danielle Bartkiw, who did not get enough votes for a seat on the board, received 1,769 (14.1%) and 1,669 votes (13.3%), respectively.

Howsare, Van Ryswyk, Williams and Young were endorsed by the local teachers’ union. Van Ryswyk and Young were also endorsed by LGBTQ advocacy group One Iowa.

Moms for Liberty made no endorsements in this race. However, Bartkiw specifically brought up M4L culture-war talking points in her answers to the district’s candidate questionnaire.

“The school district [has] strayed from its own vision and mission by becoming too focused on topics pertaining to sexuality and the new program DEI, which separates students into various groups,” Bartkiw wrote. She also noted she didn’t want to “divid[e] students into groups based on diversity” and also said parents should “not have to worry about their own or other’s personal beliefs being abated.”

Urbandale was one of the first school districts in Iowa to put out a list of 382 books they planned to ban from school libraries. That was in an effort to comply with Gov. Kim Reynolds’ new law stipulating that schools must remove all books that reference specific sex acts, regardless of the context surrounding them.

That list was later narrowed to just 65 book bans. Some school board members said they were blindsided by the news.

PPEL vote

Voters were also asked to keep Urbandale’s physical plant and equipment levy (PPEL) at $1.34 per $1,000 of assessed value for the next 10 years.

That vote passed easily with more than 64% in favor, 2,620 to 1,448 votes.

  • Amie Rivers

    Amie Rivers is Starting Line's community editor, labor reporter and newsletter snarker-in-chief. Previously, she was an award-winning journalist at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier; now, she very much enjoys making TikToks and memes. Send all story tips and pet photos to [email protected] and sign up for our newsletter here.


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