Governor Reynolds expects legislative push amid library book debates

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said Tuesday she expects a push in the next legislative session to create more transparency for parents concerned about books available to public school students.

“Parents need to know what books are in the library,” Reynolds told reporters at a forum hosted by the Iowa Capitol Press Association. “They need a chance to weigh in. They need to know what the curriculum is as well as what they are using to teach in the classroom. And I think you’re going to see engaged and caring parents.”

Reynolds said she anticipated a parent-led effort to introduce legislation, although she did not say exactly what she expected from the legislation. But, overall, she said she shares the concerns parents have expressed to her about transparency in schools.

“I’m telling you, what some of the parents brought to me is worrying,” she said. “I would be worried.”

Debates over which books are taught in the classroom and housed in school libraries ricocheted in school board meetings nationwide and in the Des Moines metro. Some conservative parents and politicians have taken a particular interest in books that feature stories of LGBTQ or black people. In Iowa, they include books like “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie and “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe.

Following:Concerns expressed by parents of Des Moines metro over LGBTQ-related books in school libraries reflect national debate

Some students and librarians pushed back against challenges and prohibitions, and LGBTQ students and students of color argued that it is essential to see yourself reflected in the literature.

Following:As Iowa’s school districts face new challenges with books, students and librarians speak out against bans

School districts typically have policies in place that allow parents to challenge books and instructional materials and create a structure for those books to be reviewed.

In some neighborhoods, like Ankeny, a contested book has been taken from library shelves. In others, including Urbandale, a review committee voted to keep several books available despite complaints from parents.

Reynolds did not say how potential legislation might change these processes, but again emphasized transparency. She said information that school districts are already making available to the state’s education ministry should also be made available to parents.

“I think lawmakers have heard and will continue to hear from parents on this issue,” she said.

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The Iowa legislature is scheduled to convene its 2022 session on Jan.10. Reynolds will deliver his state of the art speech on January 11.

Brianne Pfannenstiel is the Register’s chief political reporter. Contact her at [email protected] or 515-284-8244. Follow her on Twitter at @brianneDMR.

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