Iowa School Choice
The Prairie City Monroe district school board invited state senator Ken Rozenboom to their board meeting Monday, January 16th to discuss his support of the “school choice” bill currently making its way through Iowa legislature. The superintendent started off asking some tough questions of the Senator, who is the chair of the education committee. As he puts it, “school choice is in his lap”. He’s worked on different forms of the bill for seven years.
A lot was said about numbers and funds, percentages and estimates. The superintendent fully expects that the bill will negatively impact the PCM school district, and that the funds to cover the loss will have to come out of school programs. The senator was unconvinced… or at least he couldn’t admit he was convinced. I think the super is right.
None of that matters. None of the numbers or dollars or percentages or estimates actually matter. At one point the Senator said something along the lines of asking us if we knew what was happening in some of the public schools in the state, calling out Lynnville-Sully in particular, where he claimed middle school girls were forced to shower with transgender students1. He also called out another school who spent a week on Black Lives Matter2, with a look of pure disgust. He said that public schools brought this on themselves.
He brushed off any and all criticism as being union talking points, with a smug grin and wave of his hand.
After the meeting was over, a few of us met with him in the hall to ask a few more questions. Again he said that you’d have to have your head in the sand to not know what was going on in public schools “out there”. I raised my hand and said “my heads in the sand. Seriously, I don’t read the news, I have no idea what’s going on.” I was hoping that he would explain or give a few more examples, but somehow the conversation moved on. I suspect he had no concrete evedence to provide.
What I got from the Senator was that it’s not really about kids, it’s not about education, it’s about the right-wing culture war. That’s what he said, but also what he couldn’t really admit. He said it’s not the republicans, it’s the left, it’s the teachers who are shoving this progressive ideology down our throats. He also said that the median household income across the state of Iowa is $61,000, he followed that up by saying that the median teacher income in Iowa is $61,000. He asked me if I knew how many teachers there were out there making $100,000 a year. I asked him if he knew how many there were in PCM, and said zero.
I was flabbergasted at the number of times the Senator would say something, and immediately claim that he didn’t say it.
In the Senators mind, schools are funded appropriately, or possibly overfunded. Public school teachers are overpaid and actively poisoning our kids minds. He said that the social contract has been irrevocably broken, that we can’t put the genie back in the bottle. I’m guessing what he means by that and the “school choice” program is that public schools should be relegated to serving only those whom the private schools turn away. Student in need, students with disabilities or behaviors, students with non-Christian parents. Creating an evermore stratified society of haves and have-nots.
We ended the night with me trying to explain to the Senator that what I heard was that instead of investing in our public schools, we are taking funds away from the schools. Even though we spent the past hour talking about exactly that, the Senator claimed that wasn’t at all accurate. We shook hands and parted ways.
I could find no mention of this online, including in the published school board minutes. Of course, I’m not on Facebook. It’s unknown where the Senator gets his information. ↩