It’s one thing for community leaders to discuss and even debate what works best to help illuminate history and what should be used to support school curriculum.
It’s another thing entirely for the heavy hand of the state Legislature to threaten to withhold money from school districts that opt to include particular works to supplement curricula. That’s precisely what’s happening in Iowa, where House of Representatives File 222 says districts would receive less funding based on the number of days the 1619 Project was used in classrooms, claiming the project “attempts to deny or obfuscate the fundamental principles upon which the United States was founded.”
To be clear, the 1619 Project is Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism that mines history for rarely told stories and historical facts about the history of slavery in this country. It’s not meant to be a textbook, but a supplement — and an eye-opening conversation starter. Isn’t that, after all, the kind of thought-provoking, critical-thinking subject matter we want kids to discuss at school?
The 1619 Project underscores the point that White settlers and businesspeople earned fortunes on the labor of enslaved Black people. Not an easy subject matter to reckon with, but precisely the kind that prompts conversations that can bridge understanding in the next generation.
Iowa isn’t the only state contemplating keeping this work of journalism out of schools. But Iowans should stand up and cry foul as lawmakers consider withholding school funding for the transgression of instigating serious discussion of America’s deeply rooted racial strife.
If Iowa lawmakers really want to do something to help schools provide a better student experience, they could give teachers and administrators some relief in the form of loosening requirements for substitute teacher authorization.
A bill in the Legislature would allow those with an associate’s degree, or at least 60 undergraduate semester hours, to receive substitute authorization for any grade, instead of the currently required bachelor’s degree.
The change would coincide with a temporary change that Gov. Kim Reynolds put in place last summer to help alleviate school districts’ staffing struggles as teachers got sick with COVID-19 or were quarantined. The change helped schools ensure staffing needs are met at a time when substitute teachers have been highly difficult to secure.
Here’s a good opportunity for lawmakers to come together, regardless of party, in support of schools and students. Easing restrictions on substitute teacher credentials could help keep school systems running smoothly with a bigger reservoir of backups.
Southwest Wisconsin residents and other interested parties can voice opinions about the state’s new redistricting maps now through Thursday, March 11.
This is the time to weigh in on the process that could impact the state congressional seats for the next decade. This is Wisconsin’s chance to emulate Iowa’s fair and unbiased district maps.
After each new decade’s census is tallied, states must establish new state legislature and congressional districts that take into consideration shifts in population. In Iowa, nonpartisan legislative staffers draw the maps without considering party affiliations indicated on voter registration rolls. The main consideration is keeping the districts compact and uniform in population.
That’s not the case in Wisconsin, Illinois or numerous other states. In many other places, drawing new maps is a wholly political endeavor meant to preserve “safe seats” — where the re-election of incumbents is practically guaranteed. That can lead to complacency, pork-barrel spending and a lack of accountability. In Iowa, there are no safe seats.
This year, the Badgers could take a lesson from the Hawkeye State.
Gov. Tony Evers has charged the People’s Map Commission with drawing new redistricting maps using a nonpartisan process. The virtual hearing in this area’s 2nd Congressional District will be held on Thursday, with written comments accepted in advance.
Help put an end to gerrymandering in Wisconsin and make your views known at https://govstatus.egov.com/peoplesmaps/hearings-meetings.