Kalbach: What Iowa Republicans focused on during legislative session

Barb Kalbach. Photo submitted

By Guest Post

May 10, 2024

Our state legislative session finished up towards the end of April, and I’m glad it’s over!

From further de-funding and privatizing our public education system to turning a blind eye to pipelines and polluters, it’s time for Gov. Kim Reynolds and her statehouse cronies to take a break. While family farmers are in the thick of planting season, let’s take stock of what Reynolds and company did to us and what they didn’t do.

First and foremost, the Reynolds administration continued its assault on our public school system by de-funding our Area Education Agencies, which have lost more than 340 employees just this year. That matters a great deal in rural Iowa, where supplemental support and services matter so much due to limited school district resources. Those cuts—and lost human resources—will be nearly impossible to replace.

Reynolds also appointed McKenzie Snow as the head of Iowa’s Department of Education. We’ll be keeping an eye on her because she’s a vocal advocate for privatizing and de-funding public schools. Snow has previously worked for former Trump Administration Education Secretary Betsy Devos.

Reynolds’ anti-public education crusade also targeted libraries this year, even though proposed legislation attacking them was not approved. Librarians and their proponents remain steadfast in support of these anchor institutions in our communities, but they’ll likely face renewed threats next year. Who on Earth attacks libraries and literacy?

Reynolds, Iowa Senate President Amy Sinclair (R-Allerton), Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver (R-Grimes), and House Speaker Pat Grassley (R-New Hartford) also spent time during the session trafficking in attacks on migrants and culture war conspiracy theories.

The list of things Reynolds and company didn’t do is long. They didn’t do anything to address Iowa’s water pollution crisis caused by factory farms and corporate ag. They didn’t do anything to prevent Bruce Rastetter’s CO2 pipelines from using eminent domain for private gain. They didn’t do anything to address the continued loss of rural health care services—from giving birth close to home to protecting and caring for our grandparents and elders. A recent report ranks Iowa 49th out of 50 states in nursing home inspectors. That’s shameful.

Our elected officials also failed to take action on Iowa CCI’s ethics complaint against Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour). He campaigned on private school vouchers in 2022, voted for them in 2023, and now wants to cash in on them—to the tune of nearly $1 million every year— by establishing his own private school, the Tama-Toledo Christian School.

What’s going on? Are Reynolds and her statehouse allies using public resources to benefit their political donors and friends? Is Reynolds trying to raise her national profile for a potential appointment to higher office? It looks like she’ll stop at nothing to keep hollowing out Iowa’s public institutions and rural communities.

We can’t just sit back and let this happen. Iowa CCI members like me are organizing 24/7 for local control, grassroots democracy, clean water, healthy rural communities, and accountable government that is of, by, and for the people.

We know it’s up to us to make change happen in our communities and across the state. And we know this takes time; it’s step-by-step work that’s based on relationships. We’ve got plenty to do between now and Nov. 5. So let’s get busy, and let’s remember that elections matter.

Barb Kalbach is a fourth-generation family farmer, registered nurse, and board president of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. Barb can be reached at [email protected].



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