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They’ve done enough damage – Bleeding Heartland

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and has been connected to Iowa’s public schools for 38 years. He taught for eleven years and represented educators as an Iowa State Education Association regional director for 27 years until retiring. He can be reached at  

It’s after midnight. You’ve yawned and stretched. You’ve heard the same story twice. There’s no move to leave. They’ve settled in. Your yawns become deeper, and more obvious. 

Still, they linger.

You pick up the plates, bottles, and cans and said, “I’ve got an early day tomorrow.” But they’ve one more story to tell and your blurry eyes are set for another obvious eye roll hint.

We’ve all been in this situation. They’re your friends and you don’t want to offend, but you want them to go so you can go to bed. They’ve overstayed. They’re oblivious. Your instinct is to yell, “Go home!”

But friendship demands patience.

The majority party in the Iowa legislature and the governor are not my personal friends. They’re not exactly my enemies, though based on what they’ve done recently, they’re sure not my friends. I feel comfortable shouting; “Go home! You’ve done enough damage.”

Both political parties need to be called out when they’re not listening and are damaging the basic values of Iowa. Republicans are guilty of this now.

Lord Acton’s observation from more than a century ago applies here: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” 

The Republican Party at one time preached a small government, little intrusion doctrine. They scoffed at the “nanny state.” The scoffing turned to cheering once they got to hire the nanny. Now, intrusion is common, and they’ve got no time for listening.

It’s hard to list all the ways Iowa Republicans have wielded unchecked power. Here are a few examples related to public education, from this year’s legislative session.

The school community is diverse. It’s comprised of parents, support staff, school board members, administrators, teachers, and community leaders. It’s hard to get consensus on many issues. 

But the one issue the school community agreed on was protecting the Area Education Agencies. While Governor Kim Reynolds insisted on change, the education community agreed there should be a comprehensive study with all stakeholders involved as decision makers. 

That didn’t happen.

Instead, Republicans rammed through a 49-page bill that few had read, and most Iowans opposed. Those 49 pages included surprises and possibly mistakes. The governor refused to make any corrections. She recently told reporters she’s “absolutely not” open to fixing the AEA law.

That’s absolute power through arrogance.

Raising teacher pay is long overdue. Instead of listening to educators, Republicans logrolled it into the bill that should be called the “AEA Destruction Act.” They did it so they could run attack ads labeling Democrats who opposed the legislation as voting against raises for teachers. It’s cynical and false advertising, but expect to see it beginning in September or October.

In addition, the party that moans about inflation shortchanged public schools by providing only a 2.5 percent increase in state funding per pupil for the coming year. Many school districts are already cutting staff.

Still, legislators linger.

There’s more to come. The Iowa Senate just amended House File 2586 and sent the bill back to the House. The legislation would make it easier for school districts to allow personnel to be armed without losing insurance coverage. It would require school districts with an enrollment of more than 8,000 students to hire school resource officers or security guards for every building housing grades 9-12, unless the school board votes against it. Smaller schools are encouraged to do hire security.

This bill is both costly and dangerous. Creating a school environment with guns is asking for trouble. Insurance companies willing to even cover districts will raise premiums to cover higher risk. There are no secrets. Kids will know who is armed and where the guns are stored.

It’s time for Iowa lawmakers to clean their desks, say goodbye to colleagues, and go home. They’ve done enough damage. It’s also time for voters to provide some checks and balance in November.

Top photo of the Iowa Senate chamber during floor debate on April 2, 2024 is by Laura Belin.

Editor’s note: The Iowa legislature will likely adjourn for the year before the end of April.

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