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Sharon Steckman opinion: Iowans sick and tired of politics

Next week legislators head back to the Capitol. Much has been going on behind closed doors and, without input from others. We hope to be able to vote for legislation that will be beneficial to all Iowans. Two Education bills, SF2369, private school vouchers and HF2577, the “education transparency” bill, have yet to be decided.

SF2369, would benefit just 2% of Iowa public school students, while taking away resources from the other 98% of our children, mostly in rural communities. As the lead Democrat of the House Education Committee, I can tell you my top priority this session was strong public schools. This bill would funnel over $55 million away from schools in just the first year. 

I am NOT against private school or homeschooling if parents decide to go that route for their children. We have excellent private schools in my district. Already this year $104 million tax dollars will be going to support private/homeschool education.

HF2577 applies only to public schools. It requires an incredible amount of extra work for teachers. Teachers must post online material they will be using in every class and every subject they teach. This would include; books, newspaper articles, worksheets, media, etc. When a “teachable moment” occurs and the teacher deviates from the original plan those changes must be submitted online before the end of the week, or face a penalty. The penalties are $500 to $5,000. Curriculum materials are already easily accessible to parents, so the bill is not even necessary. Teachers and school administrators readily share what they are teaching. 

HF2577 includes a procedure for removal of books which is unnecessary because it is already part of policies for districts.  Books are reviewed before being purchased and most schools have a list of books available in their libraries posted online. If a parent objects to a book that book is brought before a “Reconsideration Committee”. This committee is made up of; parents, teachers, and administrators. The committee decides to continue using the book, or reject it, as was the case in the Ankeny District this past winter. A student’s education is a partnership between the parents and the school. I spent over 30 years in the classroom and always welcomed questions from parents and provided regular updates on what’s happening in class. Teachers want parents to be actively engaged. 

There are close to half a million children in public schools, they are counting on all of us to give them an excellent education. The primary charge of the State is to make sure those children can enter the working world with all the tools they need. Even the Iowa state quarter says that has always been the mission of Iowa.

The one message I’ve heard consistently from Iowans this session is that they’re sick and tired of politics. I don’t blame them one bit. I am hopeful as I return to the Capitol on Monday that we can put politics aside and work for what is best for all Iowans.

 

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