The following was submitted as a Letter to the Editor and printed in the February 22, 2017 edition of our local paper, The Tipton Conservative.
Like many Iowans, I am extremely disappointed with last week’s legislative action to dismantle the collective bargaining powers of public employees. This legislation will adversely impact the lives and careers of many of my friends who are teachers, or who work in the public sector. It will force our young professionals to think twice before embarking on careers here rather than pursuing better opportunities elsewhere. It will hurt our rural communities, where school districts and public works are often primary employers. Down the road this could very well lead my wife and I to question if the quality of life I grew up knowing, due largely to the value of Iowa’s public education system, will remain; if this will still be a great place to raise our child, and if it’s truly in our family’s best interest to settle here permanently.
As saddening as it is to consider the 184,000 Iowa families likely to be hurt by this measure, it is equally infuriating to understand how this all played out. Despite earlier claims that they would only consider minor tweaks to the State’s 43-year-old collective bargaining rule, Republican leaders capitalized on House and Senate majority to gut the law completely. With little warning or consultation, exploiting rarely used procedure to limit floor debate, and while thousands of teachers, firemen, police officers and concerned citizens pleaded to be heard, the bill was raced through both chambers in a thinly-veiled attempt to limit public awareness and outcry. None of this was in the true interest of Iowa workers or reflective of Iowa values. Instead, it was the direct result of union busting tactics born of dark money and out-of-state interests. Governor Branstad eagerly signed the bill less than 24 hours later, behind closed doors but in the company of Drew Klein, a henchman for “Americans for Prosperity” –the shady, ill-reputed Koch Brothers funded Super PAC.
Worse yet, this is only the beginning. Bills still pending in this legislative session include plans to eliminate the Iowa Department of Education (SF 29) to end current retirement offerings for future public employees, including teachers, fire fighters and police (SF 45) to ban teachers from speaking out on education matters (HSB 47) and to eliminate the tenure system in our universities and community colleges (SF 41.) Each of these proposals are suspected derivatives of think tank drafted template bills, adapted from a national playbook and created to push the agenda of shadow organizations. And each attack, if approved by our lawmakers, will cause reprehensible harm to thousands of hard working people who represent the best of what Iowa has to offer.
It’s time for voters to wake up and realize what’s going on; not just in Iowa but all across the nation. The greatest threat to our democracy and to our livelihoods is not illegal immigration. It’s not the welfare system or affordable health care. It’s billionaire greed and blind partisan support. And until we hold our elected officials accountable, it will continue to prey on our working class and thrive on our apathy.
Links to the bills mentioned above and currently pending (at the time of this writing) in the Iowa legislature that will impact public education. If you scroll down to the end of each bill you will find a section that offers a more concise explanation.
SF 29 Eliminates the Iowa Department of Education
SF 45 Ends access to current retirement programs for newly hired state employees
HSB 47 Prohibits teachers from speaking out on education matters
SF 41 Eliminates tenure system in Iowa universities and community colleges
And finally, this video courtesy of Iowa Senator Matt McCoy provides a little more insight to what is happening in Iowa and across the nation, thanks to Citizens United, the Koch Brothers, model legislation, and our very own Governor Terry Branstad. Click Here.