Skyler Wheeler. (IA Legislature photo)

Republicans on the House Education Committee have voted to require Iowa’s three public universities to explain terms and concepts used in courses taken by students who plan to be teachers.

If the bill is approved by both the House and Senate, the report would be due at the end of this month. “I could see why they don’t want to talk to us about what anti-racist and anti-oppressive teaching and learning is,” said Republican Representative Skyler Wheeler of Hull as he read phrases in the bill aloud at last night’s House Education Committee meeting. “…Equitable science teaching — I’m actually very curious to know what that is.”

The bill also calls for a new legislative committee to be established this summer to review the reports from the Colleges of Education at Iowa, Iowa State and UNI. Democrats opposed the bill. Representative Mary Madison of West Des Moines said the bill is hostile toward teachers.

“It’s hard to recruit people who will stay because just as a teacher, it’s like you don’t believe (and suspect): ‘They must be up to something,'” Madison said.

Representative Art Staid of Cedar Rapids accused Republicans of going on a witch hunt. “There was a guy by the name of McCarthy that did similar things and looked into everything everywhere,” Staid said, referring to televised hearings U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy led in the 1950s to question people he accused of being communists. “…Is this the road we’re going to continue to go down?”

Representative Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison, said college students complain to him they’re being “indoctrinated” with liberal concepts. “Can’t wait to hear the definition of compulsory sexuality and how that is used in an educational setting. Can’t wait,” Holt said. “Not a witch hunt, just interested.”

In 2021, Holt and other Republicans accused the dean of the University of Iowa Dental School of suppressing comments from conservative students in a group email about diversity training. The dean publicly apologized and retired a year earlier than planned.