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Iowa Governor pushes school vouchers with congresswoman in a meeting Democrats call ‘secret’

Published: May. 4, 2022 at 8:24 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R) said she pushed legislation for more public dollars to go to private schools in a closed-door meeting with Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-IA01) in attendance at a meeting in Marion Wednesday.

The meeting, which happened in the basement of the administrative and operations facility in Thomas Park, was not on the Governor’s official public schedule as of Wednesday and the media members weren’t allowed in the room with or without cameras.

Multiple elected officials were seen leaving the two-hour closed-door meeting in Marion, where some children attend the Linn-Mar Community School District. The district passed a new policy for Transgender students in April. Many, who spoke at the board meeting when the policy passed, were against the policy because parental involvement isn’t required along with concerns about student safety, privacy in bathrooms, and concerns over Christian values.

The Linn-Mar Community School District said it is trying to follow state and federal laws including Iowa’s Civil Rights Act and Title IX. A policy expert told TV9 in April an explicit policy could protect a district like Linn-Mar from a potential lawsuit because Iowa’s Civil Rights Act specifically names “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as deserving of special protection from discrimination.

Parents in the Linn-Mar School District, like Michelle Hand said they don’t believe the school board has done a good job communicating the rationale for the new policy. She said she is confused about why the district needed to make a change.

”I don’t understand why Linn-Mar is pushing and pushing for these changes for a very small number of people,” Hand said.

She said a disconnect between the school board and the around 100 people in the meeting was a consistent theme of the around 40 people who spoke to Gov. Kim Reynolds and Rep. Ashley Hinson. Hand said flyers were also handed out advocating for private schools and a “parents bill of rights”.

According to two people inside the meeting, which was closed to media.
According to two people inside the meeting, which was closed to media.(Ethan Stein)
Passed out at meeting
Passed out at meeting(None)
According to two people inside the meeting, which was closed to the media
According to two people inside the meeting, which was closed to the media(Ethan Stein)

Matt Rollinger, who is a member of the Linn-Mar School Board and voted against the new policy for transgender students, was also at the meeting. He declined an interview.

Brittania Morey, who is the Linn-Mar School Board President, wrote in an email she was unaware Gov. Reynolds was in town talking with people.

Multiple state Democrats have called the unpublicized meeting a “secret” including Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls (D-Johnson County) and State Senator Liz Mathis (D-Linn County). Wahls said pushing private school vouchers is another attack on public education in a written statement.

“Governor Reynolds knows this deeply unpopular, which is why she is once again making her case behind closed doors,” he wrote.

Mathis, who is running against Rep. Ashley Hinson for congress this November, said the meeting is evidence Gov. Kim Reynolds is struggling to pass the bill stuck in the Republican-led Statehouse in a written statement

“It’s clear the Governor cannot convince members of her own party to pass this unpopular bill so she’s enlisted help,” she wrote. “The Governor and [Rep.] Hinson should be spending time visiting classrooms and improving our public schools for the vast majority of Iowa students, rather than trying to sell a plan that will strip money away.”

Deidre Dejear (D), who is expected to win the Democratic nomination and run against Gov. Reynolds, said in a written statement the event is more evidence the Governor only prioritizes a few people rather than the majority.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds dismissed criticisms from Sen. Wahlz and said she was just in Marion to listen to parents and their frustrations.

“You know it was an opportunity for me to have an environment where they were comfortable sharing what was important to them and sometimes that gets lost in politics,” she said.

After the meeting occurred, Rep. Ashley Hinson tweeted about the meeting. She wrote, “she heard from parents who are worried about being cut out of conversations & decisions regarding their kids at school”.

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