Republican State Rep. Norlin Mommsen wasn’t on the subcommittee hearing on his proposed legislation that would require cameras in Iowa classrooms, but he was there to speak on the issue.
He, along with everyone else, wasn’t given that chance, however, as State Rep. Bubba Sorensen announced the bill was dead and there would be no subcommittee hearing.
“I’m really disappointed in that,” Mommsen told The Iowa Standard. “I really think that the conversation needs to happen — how do we encourage parents to be part of a conversation? And so, in that regard, whether the cameras is the way to keep parents engaged or not, I don’t know. But that’s what the process is here, is to see once if there’s a way, that’s what I was looking for. This idea doesn’t work, I’m open to anything as long as we keep those parents engaged.”
Mommsen said he doesn’t understand everything, but called Rep. Sorensen a “great colleague.”
“I will trust his judgment,” Mommsen added. “I was planning on speaking at the end of the discussion.”
Mommsen said he has received far more messages about school choice, which surprised him. As for the messages he has received on this particular bill, they’ve been “all over the board.”
“They varied from a grandparent excited about this, that they could have an insight into what their grandchildren were learning in school or engaged in school because they were the caretakers at the end of the school day before the parents picked them up,” Mommsen said. “They thought this would be a great aid for them to help the children with homework and things like that. It went from that extreme to people that were calling me nasty names.”
Mommsen said he received plenty of support from people that encouraged him to keep going.
“I had one teacher, I’m going to say it was a very disheartening phone call,” he said. “One was parents have no reason knowing what’s going on with their children between 8 and 3:30. That to me is discouraging that somebody would have that type of attitude. But then I also received some phone calls from teachers that were concerned somewhat about their safety. They’ve had chairs thrown at them, tables thrown at them and they’re looking at this as an opportunity to receive some protection since sometimes they feel the administration does not back them.”
While there are concerns about the fiscal impact of such a bill, Mommsen said a chair flying at a teacher is a “major work” issue.
“I strongly feel that what’s missing in our education today is that parental involvement,” he said. “And, you know, when we went to remote learning, that little glimpse — parents had just a little glimpse of what was going on in the classroom. Look at the parental engagement that took place. All of a sudden parents became interested. Just think if that was cultivated what could happen.”
He received a letter from a school in his district, Central DeWitt. The superintendent, Dan Peterson, wrote the district looks forward to increased collaboration and communication between its schools, teachers and parents.
“Our teachers work extremely hard every single day to find new and interesting ways to educate our children,” Peterson wrote. “We have some of the best teachers anywhere.”
Mommsen said he does think they have the best teachers anywhere.
The district affirmed a commitment to connect teacher experiences with parent communication and support.
“Dr. Peterson says what I was trying to accomplish,” Mommsen said. “I’m so proud of my district for going down this path and seeing the potential in this connection.”