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The Exchange 01.25.23: Governor Reynolds claims victory and signs voucher bill: LGBTQ+ advocates push back on gender education and name bills

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Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signs her "school choice" bill at the State Capitol
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Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signs school voucher bill that creates Education Savings Accounts or ESAs.

This week on The Exchange, we look at the new school voucher law signed this week by Governor Kim Reynolds. We also find out how it could affect the Sioux City Community School district. We hear from the governor and from the president of the Sioux City Community School District Board President Dan Greenwell.

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Sioux Community School District Board President Dan Greenwell

A pair of education bills have set off some concern about parents rights versus the need for LGBTQ+ students to feel safe and secure in school.

Six northwest Iowa republicans are backing two related Iowa House bills that akin to Florida’s so called “Don’t Say Gay” Bill, including Sky Wheeler of Hull, Steve Holt of Dennison, Matt Winschidtl of Missouri Valley, John Wills of Spirit Lake and Bob Henderson of Sioux City.

House File 8 states that teachers in Iowa Public Schools cannot instruct students in K-3rd grade on matters of sexual orientation or gender identity. House File 9 would bar schools from affirming a student’s gender identity if it differs from what is listed on the official birth certificate, unless there is parental consent.

Damian Thompson, the director of public policy and communications for the non-profit Iowa Safe Schools says the bills are misguided. The organization’s goal is to provide a safe, supportive environment for LGBTQ+ students in school.

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Damian Thompson (He/Him/His), the Director of Public Policy and Communication at Iowa Safe Schools

In Nebraska, housing continues to be a problem in cities like Omaha and in rural areas.

Multiple bills are in the works that were influenced by a report released last week that called for 35,000 affordable housing units to be built by 2028. Democratic State Senator Tony Vargas of Omaha has two bills that he says would help with urban and rural housing needs. We speak with him.

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Nebraska State Senator Tony Vargas-Omaha (D)

The invasive, ash tree-killing Emerald Ash Borer has a foothold in Woodbury County and has now been confirmed in all but three of Iowa’s 99 counties.
The EAB is a significant threat to the native ash tree species, typically killing a tree in 2-to-4 years after becoming infected. The Woodbury County ISU Extension Service is holding an Emerald Ash Borer Public Meeting for residents on Thursday, February 2, at 6:30 p.m. at the Woodbury County extension office in Sioux City. ISU professor emeritus and former extension entomologist Dr. Donald Lewis will share information about controlling the invasive species.

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And we commemorate the international day of Holocaust Remembrance on January 27th, by talking with the authors of two books about the heroic women who made a difference in a time of darkness and despair.

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