A coalition of groups launched their “Moral Mondays IOWA” effort today.

About a dozen activists from groups like the Iowa Citizen Action Network and the Iowa Federation of Labor gathered in a statehouse meeting room over the lunch hour to discuss the legislature’s debate over public school financing. Connie Ryan Terrell of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa helped coordinate the meeting.

“It’s a moral issue that we have to be able to fund our schools at an adequate level,” she said.

Representative Cindy Winckler, a Democrat from Davenport, told the group that with 41 percent of the state’s children living at or below the poverty level, adequately supporting public schools is crucial to the state’s future.

“Poverty is one of those social issues that is directly related to student performance,” Winckler said.

“Moral Mondays IOWA” was inspired by weekly protests held in North Carolina to call attention to issues like income inequality and voting rights. For the past three years thousands have gathered on Mondays outside the capital in Raleigh to voice their opposition to laws passed by the Republican-dominated legislature in North Carolina.

Ryan Terrell said the new “Moral Mondays IOWA” effort will involve “progressive organizations” and in coming weeks they’ll highlight issues like domestic violence and criminal sentencing reform.

“How could we not talk about public education first?” she asked. “…It is so critically important.”

The “Moral Monday” movement in North Carolina is led by that state’s NAACP and regularly features protests, marches, rallies and sit-ins. The Moral Mondays IOWA group plans instead to hold weekly roundtable discussions with sympathetic legislators to discuss “new, moral and values-driven” bills.