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Bill advances to ban use of ‘1619 Project’ in Iowa schools

DES MOINES — Republicans on an Iowa House subcommittee have advanced a bill that would pull state funding from public schools if a New York Times series about slavery is used in history classes. Representative Skyler Wheeler, a Republican from Orange City who is the bill’s sponsor, said the 1619 Project is projecting “a clear viewpoint.”

“It seeks to distort facts, not simply teach them and it does so as leftist political propaganda masquerading as history,” Wheeler said.

Rita Davenport, who spoke at a statehouse subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, said the 1619 project promotes Black “victimhood.”

“In my 57 years, I’ve never felt that I could not achieve anything because of my race,” Davenport said.

The bill would financially penalize public K-12 districts, community colleges and the three public universities for each day the 1619 project is used as history curriculum. Pete Hird, a lobbyist for Iowa Federation of Labor, said the bill amounts to censorship of history.

“I think we should address the real problem,” Hird said during the subcommittee hearing. “Racism exists. What are we doing about it?”

Representative Ras Smith, a Democrat from Waterloo, is a subcommittee member who opposed the bill. Smith said American history is complex and banning literature like the 1619 Project is a slippery slope.

“America’s about the opportunity to have diverse thought, rigorous debate about what it means to be an American,” Smith said.

Bills have been introduced in a handful of other states to ban the use of the 1619 Project in public schools. A committee in the Republican-led Arkansas legislature voted down one of those bills yesterday.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the 1619 Project, is a Waterloo native.  In a tweet last night, she called the bill “disgraceful.”

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