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Waterloo School’s Superintendent says ban on diversity plan is a loss for the district

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) -- On Monday, Governor Reynolds signed House File 228 into law, which bans voluntary diversity plans in five Iowa school districts, including Waterloo.

The House had voted a few weeks earlier 55-37 to send House File 228 to Gov. Kim Reynolds.

One day later, Superintendent Dr. Jane Lindaman weighs in on an exclusive interview with KWWL, and starts off by saying, this is a loss for the district.

"The reasons why we're not in favor of this legislation moving forward are still there, we have concerns about how it will impact our student demographics and our districts." said Dr. Lindaman.

Back in 2008, the school board signed off on diversity and desegregation bills to ensure that Waterloo Schools would not have an imbalance where more affluent students went away to smaller districts, and inner-city schools were flooded with only minorities.

The bill has the potential to reverse desegregation.

"When we looked at our open enrollment applications, it really did parallel our concerns about 'white flight'," said Dr. Lindaman. "There has been a trend the applications for open enrollment out of our district typically come from higher economic families, and also families who are Caucasian."

'White Flight' describes the case where students apply to outside districts seen as wealthier and with fewer minorities.

"We're hoping that parents will talk with us, and make decisions about whether or not they want their children in Waterloo schools based on true information, and not just perception," said Dr. Lindaman.

She hopes parents will see the district for its unique opportunities that no other schools districts offer, from its dual language programs, to international programs, and the highly sought after Waterloo Career Center.

"We are inviting parents to come to events to get to know us, to ask for a tour because we have such unique opportunities that are not provided anywhere else," said Dr. Lindaman.

She also brought in community business leaders ad legislators to have a conversation about House File 228.

"So our business leaders were very clear that they didn't think this was a good step for economic development, the Governor sees it differently," said Dr. Lindaman.

She also spoke with Governor Reynolds personally on multiple occasions, even as recent as last month, urging her not to sign the bill.

"I shared with her my concerns about it, and I told her that I really believe that this is a step in the wrong direction or Waterloo schools as a whole," said Dr. Lindaman.

On a personal note, Dr. Lindaman says that as a mother with two children in Waterloo schools, she is grateful that they are exposed to so much culture and diversity, and that reflects the well-roundedness of what the school district has to offer.

Republican lawmakers pushed for the change, citing paren'ts rights to "school choice."

The new law will extend out-of-district open enrollment ahead of the new school year.

Dr. Lindaman says they will comply and monitor the applications going forward.

They are even springing into action and calling parents to start discussing next steps for applications that were originally denied for the upcoming Fall semester.

"Of course we're going to look at individuals, and we'll serve individuals well," said Dr. Lindaman.

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Dani Miskell

Weekend Anchor & Reporter

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