The NUMBER ONE priority for our Governor and Legislators this session is Education.
The phrase that we keep hearing from our Governor and our Legislators is "Back to Basics" in Iowa Education and that is what we are seeing in proposed Legislation this session as well.
In October of 2022, after their administration and most of their elected school board officials seemed to be ignoring their concerns, dozens of Van Meter Iowa parents and community members put together a petition called "Back to Basics" Preserving the Integrity of Van Meter Schools. Follow the link to view it. Please don't sign it unless you are a resident of the Van Meter School District.
Last we heard, it had garnered nearly 200 signatures and was still growing. This is huge, in a community with less than a 1000 students and where only 600 community members voted in the last school board election.
They weren't the only community in Iowa experiencing these troubling issues. All across the state parents have been contacting their administrators and school board officials and when they made no progress, began reaching out to their representatives at the State Capitol.
Iowa school administrators and school board officials may not have been listening, but our state representatives have been.
That's why the local school board elections are so important. Parents haven't been paying enough attention to school board elections and now they are experiencing the repercussions.
Iowans seem to have learned their lesson and are working hard to transform their school boards by electing representatives who will listen to parents and who aren't afraid to make changes in curriculum and educational materials, especially when some of these programs like the SEL program, 2nd Step, that Van Meter, West Des Moines, Waukee and many other Iowa School Systems are using, seem to be going against their family's and their small town Iowa values.
It's not enough to only have one school board member on a board who wants to get "Back to Basics."
Van Meter School Board Official Brent Haynes, who seems to have been alone and fighting a losing battle on these issues, was quoted saying to his fellow board members at a special meeting,
"When my kids are in school, I want them to be learning, Math in Math, Science in Science, English in English and Geography in Geography not all of this Social Emotional Learning. "
When administration and his fellow board members came back with the question "You don't want us to teach kids to be good human beings?" his reply was,
That's the responsibility of the parents and their church.
He went on to say something to the effect of that he didn't think it was healthy letting some mega corporation come into the school that seemed to be constantly surveying the kids about their emotions and asking many questions that parents deemed inappropriate.
Even though their administration and the rest of their school board, didn't seem to be interested in properly addressing the issues, every request in the Van Meter Community "Back to Basics" petition has been addressed by proposed legislation this session.
These were the key requests in their Petition and just a few of the bills currently in process which are addressing these concerns.
The removal of sexual and sexually graphic content. HF 305 there is more legislation being introduced on this as well. See ALA article for more information on some of the issues.
The removal of gender ideology HF348, SF159 both address sexuality and gender identity instruction in elementary school and early Jr. High and HF 9 (regarding parental consent) and of divisive critical race ideology per (HF802) * The Iowa Department of Education and some Iowa administrators have ignored or circumvented this law. There is legislation in the pipeline that will put more teeth into it and the IDOE is being completely reorganized.
A return to a neutral “non-political” form of education. HF 12 *Requires teaching government and a comparable study of political ideologies. CRT has been banned in Iowa and there is more legislation being submitted addressing the political slant of education.
An "Opt-In” model for any surveys, SEL, or content being taught that is questionable. *This ensures parents have informed consent. SF 85 and it's house companion bill HF 362 both address the removal of CASEL and of making Surveys Opt In instead of Opt out. CASEL has already been removed from the IDOE website.
A "Back to Basics” initiative and committee, made up of representatives of the community, to review all curriculum being taught. * many legislators will tell you that everything they are doing this session is to give parents back control of their children's education. SSB 1145 (the governor's transparency bill) The IDOE education examiners board will be replaced with the passage of HF 10 with 6 parent positions on the board who will be appointed by our governor. We also passed the historic Students First Act which allows parents to take their state funding to a private school. We are now funding students, not systems and putting parents in charge of their kids education. So if your school is not getting back to basics and is teaching CRT, SEL, etc. Iowans can take their funding and students to a school that better fits their needs.
The Van Meter administration and School Board were unmoving in their position that they "needed an SEL program" so parents went to work researching other more neutral platforms that didn't collect data on their kids or contain CRT and Gender Identity Instruction. They found one in The Positivity Project. Which is based on the 24 Character Strengths of Positive Psychology. Read their Story. Cofounder Jeff Bryan even gave a presentation to The Van Meter School Board, but they have yet to adopt a new program. At the last meeting their Superintendent reportedly mentioned that he was considering going back to Character Counts but they seem to be waiting to see what happens at the Capitol before making any decisions.
It's not just parents across the state who are calling for a "Back to Basics" in Iowa Education. Its Iowa teachers as well.
Representative Eddie Andrews discusses how he and 17 other Representatives had a meeting with Teachers from all across Iowa who wanted to voice their concerns about the current state of Education. He mentioned today at a town hall meeting at the Urbandale Chamber of Commerce that many teachers were afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation from administrators and Colleagues. Which he went on to say had proven to be a well founded concern.
Or listen to the interview.
Support your local parent groups and don't forget to get out to vote in November in your local school board elections. It's become apparent that school board elections are some of the most important that we can take part in here in Iowa.
"BACK TO BASICS" is the Theme this year in Iowa. This next week is Funnel Week for legislation. We will do our best to keep you up to date on legislation affecting Education and anything that might affect the freedom of Iowans.
*If you appreciate everything we are doing to protect the freedoms of Iowans and to support parental rights please lend your support.
In this incredibly informative interview, Representative Dan Gehlbach explains Funnel Week and discusses the IDOE and education reform here in Iowa.
For more information on organizations that have been causing many of the current issues in Iowa Schools, check our our research and listen to our Interviews with experts and Iowa Legislators.
More than you ever wanted to know, but probably not as much as you should know, about CASEL, SEL, the ALA and the AASA. We've done the research for you.
CASEL and SEL (The Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning)
ALA (The American Library Association)
AASA (The Superintendents Association)