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Are political fault lines showing up in Iowa's nonpartisan school boards and elections?

Talk of Iowa, hosted by Charity Nebbe

As culture war issues froth into school board meetings, how are political issues shaping these nonpartisan offices? Hear about what we are seeing statewide, whether we’ve seen it before and what impact it is having on these local offices.

Recent meetings in Ankney wallpapered social media. The pressure has been on at local school board meetings and is spilling into supposedly nonpartisan school board elections. These usually low turnout local elections are getting unusual amount of attention.

Host Charity Nebbe speaks with three reporters covering these bodies about what they're seeing in these races as we approach Election Day Nov. 2, 2021. Then we hear from Monique Scarlett, a school board member from Sioux City, and Lisa Bartusek about what it's been like as a school board member amid pandemic and controversy. Last, we hear from a former staffer of the Gov. Terry Branstad administration about when we've seen these tensions run high in the past.


  • Grant Gerlock, central Iowa reporter for Iowa Public Radio
  • Phillip Sitter, K-12 and higher education reporter for The Ames Tribune
  • Grace King, K-12 Education reporter for The Cedar Rapids Gazette
  • Monique Scarlett, vice president of Sioux City School Board
  • Lisa Bartusek, executive director of Iowa Association of School Boards
  • Jodie Butler, former staffer in Governor Branstad’s office from January of 1994 through Oct. 1998 focusing on education, workforce and cultural affairs
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Zachary Oren Smith is a reporter covering Eastern Iowa