A Letter to Moderate/Independent Voters

Dear Moderate and Independent Voters,

Hi, I’m an Iowa teacher. My family moved to Iowa when I was four years old because of the state’s reputation as a leader in education. Education didn’t used to be a partisan issue in Iowa. Leaders from both parties did all they could to provide resources and support to Iowa’s public schools.   It can no longer be said that education is a non-partisan issue. I’m not sure why that is and it really doesn’t matter at this point.

I always considered myself a politically moderate guy, but I suppose that ship has also sailed. I would surely be labeled by most as the dreaded “L word”. My father was always proud to be identified as a liberal, so in his spirit I’ll admit to you that, while it may be out of fashion to admit it, I’m a big old liberal teddy bear.  It only seems fair to be honest with you.

For three years I have been writing about schools and politics and, if I were to be honest, I have probably been spitting into the wind. During the last three years the Iowa legislature has increased school funding at record-setting low levels (1% for FY 2019 after setting it at 1.1% in FY 2018). Iowa legislators also gutted Collective Bargaining in Iowa for public school teachers. That means that my colleagues and I can’t bargain for anything other than salary with our school boards.   Governor Ray instituted Collective Bargaining for Iowa’s workers in the mid-1970’s after years of study. Iowa’s Republican legislators took it away in the course of 48 hours at the statehouse.   In addition, it is becoming increasing clear that Iowa’s Republican lawmakers wish to divert more public dollars to private schools. Taxpayer contributions to private schools has grown 53% in the last ten years (https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/education/2018/07/17/iowa-public-money-private-school-home-schooling-2008-2018-education-school-choice-millions-funding/715596002/). It is also clear to those who are paying attention that Iowa’s Republican leaders are ready to radically change Iowa’s public employee’s pension fund known as IPERS against our wishes.

So, I guess it’s safe to say that I am frustrated.   In no universe could you read the above data and conclude that Iowa’s Republican leaders are doing all they can for public schools. Yet their campaign ads say that they are pro-public education (except for the ads with scary music and fuzzy pictures of Democrats meant to scare you about these dangerous community leaders). Yeah, I’m frustrated because some of you must believe what these candidates are selling. I know that I’m not going to change the minds of hard-core Republican voters and I don’t need to convince my fellow wild-eyed liberal friends. So, I want to appeal to my moderate and independent friends.

In an era when transportation costs, insurance costs, and technology costs are rising so rapidly, how can 1% growth in our school’s budgets be enough? How can we devote more dollars to private schools when we are told that our state budget can’t stand more spending on our public schools? Why is it so important for Republican legislators to take away bargaining rights and mess with teacher pensions?

Teachers across the country are becoming increasingly frustrated. I encourage you to read about what teachers in states like Kentucky, West Virginia, and Oklahoma have had to do to be heard.   Iowa’s teachers don’t want to have storm our capitol or strike in order to be help our schools. We are hopeful that our neighbors will have our backs a little bit on November 6th.   When I watch Republican ads I am reminded of my grandmother who often said, “that dog won’t hunt.” I hope that dog doesn’t hunt this fall. The women and men who teach your sons and daughters are asking you a favor, please consider us and them when you go to the polls on November 6th.   Please?

Sincerely,

Patrick Kearney

Iowa Teacher (29 years in the business)

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4 Comments

  1. Thank you for all that you have done, and will continue to do to put a Teacher’s voice in the mix. I am hopeful that this letter,and all the others you have written will be heard by some who will see that Public Education is in need of serious help. Keep spreading the truth.

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