A bill progressing through the Iowa House of Representatives would halt a “woke agenda” in the state’s colleges by banning diversity, equity and inclusion spending, the legislation’s sponsor said.
“For too long, the DEI bureaucracies at our institutions of higher education have been used to push a woke agenda on the faculty, staff and students,” Iowa state Rep. Taylor Collins told Fox News. “Under the guise of diversity and inclusion, these programs work to indoctrinate students into their preferred political ideology.”
House File 616, which passed a House committee last week, would prohibit the state’s public universities from spending money on DEI offices or on employees working in positions centered around race, gender identity or sexual orientation. Courses, research, student organizations and guest speakers on those topics, however, would still be allowed.
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“This bill aims to dismantle these DEI programs and ensure this money is being spent for the true benefit of students,” Collins, a Republican, said.
The legislation’s critics have argued that eliminating DEI offices would remove necessary support for a wide variety of students. Educators needs to think about DEI in an expansive way “not just about race, not just about gender, but about things like learning disabilities,” University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson said during a House subcommittee hearing.
DEI offices are typically intended to help college promote diversity and inclusion while helping all students achieve equal outcomes. They often offer mentoring programs, events and other activities and recruit students and staff of different racial backgrounds to add diversity on campus.
The University of Iowa’s DEI office, for example, enhances “a welcoming, respectful, and inclusive climate for all” and advances “recruitment and retention of faculty, students, and staff,” according to its website.
But opponents of DEI initiatives have said such programs create race-based favoritism. Gov. Greg Abbott’s chief of staff called DEI hiring practices an effort “to push policies that expressly favor some demographic groups to the detriment of others.”
The Texas governor directed state colleges to remove DEI factors from their hiring practices, leading universities to drop diversity requirements.
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The Iowa bill also would redirect DEI funding to reduce in-state student tuition and to scholarships for lower- and middle-income students. Collins tweeted that the legislation would “return Iowa’s higher education institutions’ focus back to academic excellence.”
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Other red states have also taken aggressive stances against DEI initiatives. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed cutting funding from programs that support DEI and critical race theory.
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The Iowa legislation’s introduction also followed the state’s passage of the Students First Act in January, allowing money to follow Iowa students to schools they choose to attend. The Hawkeye State has been one of a few Republican-led states to pass expansive school choice laws for K-12 students in recent years as part of a push for parental rights in education.
House File 616 is awaiting a vote in the lower chamber.