DES MOINES — A group of 26 Republican lawmakers want Iowa’s public universities to explain themselves and their teacher education curriculum by defining a long list of terms from course descriptions — such as “mandatory heterosexuality,” “critical media literacy,” and “fair science education”. ”
The House Education Subcommittee on Wednesday passed House Act 7 — presented by Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, and 25 other Republican representatives including House Representative Pat Grassley; House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl; Denison’s Steve Holt; and Thomas Gerhold of Atkins.
It requires that each of Iowa’s public universities — in consultation with its board of directors — submit a report to the General Assembly by February 27, defining “with accuracy” a list of individual concepts and terms extracted from course summaries in each of its colleges be taken education.
“These were pulled from class titles or descriptions of the classes,” said subcommittee chair Wheeler, highlighting some from the University of Iowa’s College of Education, including “diversity and identity in kindergarten through 12th grade education,” ” culturally appealing classroom”. “anti-racist and anti-oppressive teaching and learning” and “queer identities at all levels from kindergarten to 12th grade”.
“That’s taxpayer money going into some of these different things,” Wheeler said. “When you look at these, do you start honestly trying to figure out what on earth these even mean? So the purpose of this bill is not a witch hunt. It’s simple, we want answers on how our tax dollars are being used and what’s going on in our teacher preparation programs.”
The bill also provides for the creation of an interim study committee to assess “degree programming in state colleges of teacher education and the curriculum required for the completion of a degree.”
The committee would include representatives and senators chosen by Republican leadership, and would be tasked with producing a final report containing findings and recommendations for changing policy.
“I have major concerns about the interim study committee and its current design,” Connie Ryan, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund, told lawmakers during Wednesday’s subcommittee meeting. “It is quite possible that only members of the majority party sit on this preliminary study committee.”
Of even greater concern, Ryan said, is that the committee does not include “professionals.”
“Legislators are not necessarily experts in curricula. They’re not necessarily professional educators,” she said, raising concerns and questions about the concepts the bill seeks to define.
“I’m very confused about this legislation,” Ryan said. “I’m not sure what exactly we’re trying to achieve. It feels like we’re concluding that teacher preparation programs at universities have some sort of agenda.”
Wheeler replied, “We as legislators are also confused”.
“I tend to study some of the, I’ll just call it, New Age ideologies that are out there,” he said. “Some of them are very interesting.”
Wheeler is among more than 30 Republican lawmakers who recently introduced the Iowa version of Florida’s Don’t Say Gay Bill, which bans public school educators from teaching sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
Last year, Wheeler introduced the measure banning transgender athletes from participating in girls’ and women’s sports in Iowa schools and colleges.
On Wednesday, Wheeler said the phrases and concepts his law requires explanation for come from courses like UI’s “LGBTQ Issues in Education,” which are billed as examining the “intersection of policy and practice regarding queer identities.” all levels of K- 12 education; History of queerness in the US focusing on the creation of the concept of mandatory heterosexuality and how that concept is being reinforced in K-12 schools.”
Chuck Hurley — vice president and chief attorney for The Family Leader — spoke in favor of the law and said he’s also curious about what’s being taught at Iowa’s public universities, particularly as it pertains to aspiring educators.
“I think taxpayers have a right to more information,” he said. “I think it’s clear to anyone who pays attention to our university education that there are some concepts that are probably at odds with what I think the majority of lawmakers now think is wise to move western civilization in a positive direction.” to move forward.”
Keenen Crow, director of policy and advocacy at One Iowa, asked what lawmakers intended to do with the information once they received definitions for the terms listed.
“Legislators generally do not require administrative officials to report unless they intend to do something with that information in the future,” he said, highlighting some concepts in the bill that he said “most people would agree with.” ’ should be dealt with in teacher preparation.
“Things like ‘current trends in curriculum’ or ‘current models of curriculum development,'” he said. “These things seem to me to be things that we want educators to know about.”
Even asking administrators to report on these and other conditions will “have a chilling effect,” according to Crow.
“People will take the path of least resistance,” he said. “So if you tell a group of admins that if you teach X, Y and Z that you have to file a report about it – and that there are no additional resources to create and put that report together – then admins will be the people of it discourage teaching about X, Y and Z.”