Kim Reynolds policy affects quality for public service positions

John Mendelin, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Incumbent governor Kim Reynolds (R) was elected back into office by Iowa voters during the 2018 midterm cycle. In the wake of the election, Iowa public schools and their teachers are looking for answers to uncertainty surrounding statewide budget changes and public workers’ benefits.

IPERS is the 1953 Iowa pension arrangement put in place by state legislature to improve career quality for public servants, such as law enforcement officers, government officials, and teachers. These retirement benefits help 1 in 10 Iowans, according to statistics from the IPERS website.

Reynolds has remained firm that she will not hinder any IPERS benefits offered prior to her taking office, as reported by the Des Moines Register in Sept. during her campaign. However, Reynolds later said she would not be opposed to a change within Iowa retirement programs.

An Iowa budget shifting funds away from the public workforce is not unheard of from Reynolds and state Republicans. In Jan. 2017, a bill restricting union collective bargaining rights passed through Republican legislature, leaving salaries for public workers in full control of the state. Later pro-business bills also included reduction for workers’ compensation and restrictions to liability lawsuits.

People in the general public resent public pensions, and with Republican leadership supporting new privatization of many public sectors, you’ll see those benefits go out the window”

— Don Fry

Policy changes which affect the public workforce in turn affect Pleasant Valley teachers as well as educators across the state. “IPERS is a great benefit for teachers entering the field,” said Pleasant Valley English teacher Don Fry. “The pay for the first few years is not great, and they don’t have cash to set aside for retirement, so a pension nicely fills that gap.”

Lack of adequate funding for public work benefits could see people turning away from those positions as they enter the workforce. Fry said, “People in the general public resent public pensions, and with Republican leadership supporting new privatization of many public sectors, you’ll see those benefits go out the window.”

It is difficult to keep young people interested in pursuing education when the financial burdens outweigh the rewards. “Happy teachers are good teachers,” Fry said. “Now without collective bargaining, a change to something like IPERS could hurt public education greatly.”

Reynolds has yet to officially move forward with any major policy changes.