DES MOINES -- Educators in Iowa have been relaying their concerns with remarks made earlier this week by Republican Iowa Senate President Jake Chapman, who accused teachers of having a “sinister agenda” for books they include in school libraries, Democratic legislative leaders said Thursday.
Before the session began this week, Chapman had attended a school board meeting in Johnston where he said librarians and teachers who distributed literature he deemed to be obscene or graphic should be arrested. During his speech Monday on the first day of the 2022 session of the Iowa Legislature, Chapman continued that campaign.
“One doesn’t have to look far to see the sinister agenda occurring right before our eyes. The attack on our children is no longer hidden. Those who wish to normalize sexually deviant behavior against our children, including pedophilia and incest, are pushing this movement more than ever before,” Chapman said.
Some books in school libraries have been targeted by Iowans who feel their content is vulgar or too graphic. Most feature LGBTQ themes or are written by LGBTQ authors, and include passages that describe sexual experiences.
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“Our children should be safe and free from this atrocious assault,” Chapman said in his speech. “Our students should be learning about science, and mathematics; they should be learning about engineering and innovation. Instead, some teachers are disguising sexually obscene material as desired subject matter and profess it has artistic and literary value.”
Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, said the next morning he received a message from a school principal who had a teacher ask for a letter of recommendation so the teacher can transfer to a district in another state. Wahls said he also received a message from a small-town superintendent who called Chapman’s remarks “really, really scary.”
“We’re hearing stories like this all the time,” Wahls said during a news conference Thursday.
House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said she heard from teachers working on their lessons plans for the next day when they reached out to her about the comments.
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“The teachers I have, their only agenda is to teach kids and make great citizens and people who want to grow up to be great Iowans,” Konfrst said. “It’s been incredibly insulting and frankly hurtful for teachers across the state who are doing all they can for their kids, especially these last two years (amid the COVID-19 pandemic), to hear this said.”
During an interview with KCCI-TV in Des Moines, Chapman said his comments were not accusing all teachers but said some educators are defending literature he deems obscene.
“My view is there are some, and we’ve seen it, that they have actually come before school boards and advocated for keeping this type of literature in the classroom,: Chapman said. ”And I don't think that’s OK. I don’t think a fifth-grader should have access to this kind of obscene material. It’s inappropriate.”
GOP ready on Reynolds’ agenda
House Republicans are eager to get started on Gov. Kim Reynolds’ agenda, House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said.
Grassley said Thursday the priorities outlined by Reynolds in her Condition of the State address earlier this week largely align with the House Republican caucus.
“I think you’re going to really see us starting off from a position where the focus of the Legislature, in the House, with what the governor is proposing, we’re really in a good spot to get off and get running,” Grassley told reporters.
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One of the first items lawmakers typically address is public school funding levels. Grassley said he believes Republican leaders will be able to produce that legislation in the first month.
In her budget proposal, Reynolds pitched a 2.5 percent increase for K-12 school districts, community colleges and the state’s three public universities. Grassley did not commit to an exact figure, but said he believes majority Republicans in the House and Senate will be able to find agreement with the governor.
Corporate tax cut
Reynolds’ budget includes a proposal to lower the state’s top corporate income tax rate, pending state corporate income tax revenues reach a certain level.
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Under the proposal, if state corporate income tax revenue surpasses $700 million, the top rate would be reduced the next year, according to an analysis of the proposal from the Legislative Services Agency, the nonpartisan fiscal and legal analysis division. Business leaders have asked state leaders to consider lowering the state’s corporate income tax rate.
Democratic legislative leaders criticized the proposal itself, claiming it provides financial assistance only to the most profitable companies — and the fact that Reynolds did not mention it during her Condition of the State speech.