The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Politics Notebook | McKenzie Snow confirmed as Iowa Department of Education Director

Also, Iowa House approves Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ plan to overhaul Iowa’s mental health system.
Ayrton Breckenridge
The Iowa State Capitol is seen in Des Moines on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024.

Iowa Senate lawmakers confirmed McKenzie Snow’s appointment to be the Director of the Iowa Department of Education despite Democrats objection to Snow’s lack of education experience.

Snow was appointed by Reynolds in June 2023 after Chad Aldis stepped down from the roll he was appointed to three months before. Snow was the deputy secretary of education in Virginia until she left to take the position at the Iowa Department of Education.

Democrats raised concerns that Snow hasn’t held a teaching license in any state, having only held positions in state and national education agencies.

McKenzie Snow is a polite, articulate, intelligent individual,” Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said during floor debate on Snow’s nomination Tuesday. “Unfortunately, though, she lacks the experience, training and leadership qualities to serve as a director of the Iowa Department of Education.”

Republicans say she has plenty of experience leading state and national education agencies giving her ample experience to lead the agency.

“I don’t know director Snow well, but through this process, getting to know her a little bit and having multiple conversations I can tell she’s smart,” Sen. Jeff Taylor, R-Sioux Center, said on Tuesday. “I can tell she’s knowledgeable she’s personable, she’s data driven, and she’s engaged and accessible.”

Snow was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday, 35-15, with only Republicans in support.

Snow also served as the New Hampshire Department of Education division director of academics and assessment, special education, career development, adult education, wellness, and nutrition.

Snow, who has a bachelor’s in political science, was a special assistant to the president at the White House domestic policy council, senior adviser at the Office of Management and Budget, and policy director at the U.S. Department of Education during the Trump administration.

Snow was one of 13 of the governor’s appointees confirmed by the Iowa Senate on Tuesday.

Most confirmations were unanimous, however Douglas Hoisington’s appointment to the Board of Medicine and Catherine Lucas’ appointment to the Public Employee Relations Board received party line votes. Beth Skinner, director of the Iowa Department Corrections, received three no votes from Democrats.

Governor’s mental health system redesign passes House

In an almost unanimous vote, Iowa House lawmakers voted to combine Iowa’s 32 mental health and substance abuse districts into seven new Behavioral Health Districts.

The bill, House File 2673, would also move disability services, currently served in mental health districts, to the Iowa Health and Human Services Aging and Disability network.

The bill would also dismantle three state boards, including the Tobacco Use, Prevention, and Control, Mental Health and Disability Services Commission, and the Commission on Aging.

RELATED: A deeper look into Iowa Gov. Reynolds’ proposed mental health system realignment.

Reynolds proposed the changes in her Condition of the State Address in January and said the bill realigns resources in these regions to better serve mental health.

House passes Governor’s reading bill

Iowa House lawmakers also almost unanimously approved Reynolds reading literacy bill, with changes, on Tuesday.

A strike after amendment that rewrote the contents of the bill that were changed from the governor’s proposed version of the bill:

  • Requires accredited teaching programs at Iowa’s universities to administer a reading test similar to the Massachusetts reading assessment as a teaching tool, and not as a requirement to licensure or graduation.
  • Requires districts to notify parents if their student is not reading proficiently.
  • Requires districts to retain students who are not reading proficiently if requested by their parents.
  • Requires districts to create individualized plans to get students not reading proficiently to grade level.

The bill passed the Iowa House, 92-3, with a few Democrats voting against the bill.

Governor signs “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” into law

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” or Senate File 2095, into law on Tuesday.

The bill passed the Iowa House on Feb. 29, 61-33, and was sent to the governor’s desk.

The bill would require the government to prove it had a compelling interest when pursuing litigation against a party who claims its actions were an expression of religious freedom.

“Thirty years ago, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed almost unanimously at the federal level. Since then, religious rights have increasingly come under attack,” Reynolds said in a news release on Tuesday. “Today, Iowa enacts a law to protect these unalienable rights — just as twenty-six other states have done — upholding the ideals that are the very foundation of our country.”

Mazie Stillwell, the Public Affairs Director at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa, said the bill would target minorities like LGBTQ+ Iowans, abortion rights, and religious minorities.

“Let me be clear — this is not about protecting religious freedom,” Stillwell said in a news release. “But, rather, it’s part of a larger, harmful campaign to push a political agenda against the rights of LGBTQ+ people, women and other marginalized communities and should be seen as just that — not a protection but an attack.”

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About the Contributors
Liam Halawith, Politics Editor
Liam Halawith is a third-year student at the University of Iowa studying Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Public Policy. Before his role as Politics Editor Liam was a politics reporter for the DI. Outside of the DI Liam has interned at the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Southeast Iowa Union. This is his second year working for the DI.
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.