The bill, which is now law, says Iowa schools should develop plans for “rigorous” online courses, but the law goes on to say that unless Governor Reynolds grants an exception, a school “shall not take action to provide instruction primarily through remote-learning.”
Reynolds, at a news conference yesterday, made the following comment on the law: “We might have to go online temporarily and we need to be ready to do that, but I believe we all should do everything we can to get our kids back in school.”
Democrats like Senator Herman Quirmbach of Ames say the law gives the governor authority to grant exceptions, she’s just choosing to override local decision makers.
“She could have given local school boards the authority to say: ‘Our local conditions warrant us going 100% online.’ She did not do that,” Quirmbach said during an interview. “…They’re playing defense. They’ve made a bad decision. They’ve gotten a lot of bad feedback on it.”
Quirmbach said as school officials and parents criticize the new guidelines for when schools may shift to online instruction, the governor’s “trying to shift the blame” onto the legislature by citing this new law.
“If she were confident that she had made the right decision, she would just simply stand up and take credit for it,” Quirmbach told Radio Iowa.
Republican Speaker Pat Grassley of New Hartford said the criticism is off base.
“It seems like all that’s going on right now is just political rhetoric, attacking the governor,” Grassley said during a Radio Iowa interview. “Why don’t we focus that same amount of energy on how we’re going to make sure we can return to school and educate our kids in a responsible manner?” Because I will tell you out here in rural Iowa…there’s an expectation from the parents to have their kids back at school.”
Republican Senator Amy Sinclair said the governor is “following the plain text” of the law.
“I don’t know why this is being used other than to make political hay,” Sinclair told Radio Iowa. “…We should all be working together — school districts, legislators, governor’s office, executive branch, departments — we should all be working together to find the best way to educate Iowa’s children.”
Sinclair, who is from Allerton, is chair of the Senate Education Committee.
Mike Beranek, president of the Iowa State Education Association, has said the governor’s Return to Learn guidelines are based on an “outlandish notion of what constitutes minimal, moderate and uncontrollable spread of COVID-19.”