The Iowa Senate Education Committee advanced House File 802 out of committee on Tuesday by an 8-5 vote that followed party lines.
The bill would prohibit from teaching as fact 10 divisive concepts in mandatory trainings for government entities as well as in curriculum at K-12 schools.
Republican Sen. Amy Sinclair, who is managing the bill, said an amendment will be added to the legislation but it isn’t ready for discussion.
Democrat Sen. Herman Quirmbach said he was disappointed the amendment isn’t ready so the committee could discuss it.
“There are so many things wrong with this bill,” Quirmbach said. “Even to get it to conform with the Senate version of the bill would require a very substantial amendment and this committee should be discussing that amendment so that we can give an informed recommendation to the full body when the bill comes before the full Senate. That’s very disappointing.”
As for the bill itself, Quirmbach called it a “disaster.” He noted that the scope of the bill has “metastasized” as it is being extended to governmental entities with a definition that is way overbroad. It even includes the judicial branch, which Quirmbach said creates issues with separation of powers. He also expressed concern over the idea that Iowa could restrict what is taught in other states, which the bill does.
“I didn’t know that we had colonized Nebraska,” he said. “I don’t know why that language is in there.”
He also expressed concern with the idea that it would apply to 28 E agreements.
In addition, he said it is “absolutely unacceptable” that it extends to K-12 curriculum as well.
“Determination of curriculum in our K-12 schools is not something the legislature deals with,” he said. “We have delegated that to the Board of Education and the use of particular curriculum materials is delegated under law to our local school districts. So, we’re violating for the umpteenth thousandth time local control here.”
Quirmbach also said the bill violates academic freedom.
Democrat Sen. Claire Celsi said the divisive concepts could be considered divisive if taught by someone who makes them divisive.
“However, there are trainings that are currently happening in the state of Iowa and elsewhere all over our country that do talk about these divisive concepts as a means to teach other people to recognize their own implicit bias,” Celsi said. “As we sit here, there’s a trial going on in Minneapolis. The fact that we want to ignore implicit bias along with other ‘divisive concepts’ I believe will put a chilling effect on any teacher or trainer who wants to improve their subjects or their pupils in saying these are the things we need to look for in our society. These are the things that are in all of us. Implicit bias is in all of us.”
Sinclair said divisive concepts such as teaching someone is inherently racist due to their race or sexist due to their sex is happening in Iowa. She said when her son went to Iowa State, he actively avoided telling people who his mom was because he feared the discrimination he’d receive for being affiliated with her political ideology.
“We are by virtue of some of these trainings and things we’re saying to kids creating a hostile environment for kids in the classroom and individuals in workplaces and we ought not be creating a hostile environment simply based on the color of your skin or sex.”