Opinion | Local leaders and schools deserve their powers

Reynolds and the Republican Party’s attempts to chip away at local government and school control must stop.


Ryan Adams for the Daily Iowan

Gov. Kim Reynolds gives the State of the State address in the house chamber of the Iowa State Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 in Des Moines. Gov. Reynolds highlighted in the address expansion of broadband internet, a push for in-person learning, and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hannah Pinski, Opinions Editor

Local government and Iowa schools are in trouble as Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Republican party have chipped away at their fundamental powers.

From attempts to control the police budgets to mask mandates, they have stripped local leaders and schools of their power and have put it in the hands of the state.

Take for example the bill in this year’s legislative session that cut state funding to local governments if they decided to reduce the law enforcement budget at a higher percentage than their overall budget. While the bill wasn’t signed into law, it almost forced local governments to appropriate their budget to the state’s wishes, instead of what’s best for the community.

So, depriving discretion that local governments have always had is not just an attempt to take away their power. It was also a threat for local governments to accommodate and further the Republican Party’s agenda at the expense of community interests.

But budgets aren’t the only thing that Reynolds and the Republicans want to control, and local governments aren’t the only sector that’s being affected. They have also expropriated the powers of Iowa K-12 schools, particularly when it comes to COVID-19 policy.

While school districts were designing learning formats that they thought were safest for the community, Reynolds threw her first curveball, requiring Iowa schools to hold at least 50 percent of classes in-person starting in fall 2020.

Districts such as the Iowa City Community School District were thrown back to square one since they planned for the school year to start online. Even when they filed a lawsuit for control of school re-openings, Judge Mary Chicchelly denied the request, despite Johnson County having a 22.2 percent positivity rate at the time.

Iowa school districts became constrained and had to worry about meeting unnecessary state guidelines instead of focusing on the curriculum. But Reynolds didn’t care that the consequences of taking away control from schools meant sacrificing the value of students’ education.

As the year continued, many thought that her decision to require a fully in-person option for schools that left teachers feeling like a pawn in politics would be the hardest challenge. However, the biggest curveball came just after midnight on May 20, when she signed a law forbidding schools, counties, and cities to require face coverings.

Her signature sent families and teachers into a spiral of chaos the following morning inside Iowa’s schools. Horror stories from parents flooded Twitter of their children being bullied to the point where masks were ripped off and were sent home frightened and confused.

It’s bad enough Reynolds turned what’s supposed to be welcoming learning environments into a place of fear and confusion. But in the broader picture, schools and local leaders always had the right to create and enforce precautions for the health and safety of the community. Mask requirements are no exception.

This law not only furthers Reynolds’ own beliefs, but also sets a dangerous precedent that both educators and local leaders no longer have the ability to keep their communities safe.

For a governor who supposedly hallmarks freedom and personal choice, it’s awfully ironic that the same person is also depriving local governments and schools of their power to keep communities safe and put it in her own hands. So why should Iowans allow her to continue attaching strings at the local level that has clearly harmed communities?

With Iowa’s gubernatorial election coming up in 2022, Iowans need to keep in mind who deprived local governments and school districts of their power so she could push her personal agenda.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.