Iowa GOP lawmakers push for budget cuts for schools that teach ‘1619 Project’

For her work on it, Iowa native Nikole Hannah-Jones received the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

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Republican lawmakers in Iowa are seeking to mandate funding and budget cuts to schools that teach The 1619 Project published by The New York Times. 

The proposal will reduce funding for any Iowa school district whose teachers use the acclaimed collection of writings — which was published in 2019 and initiated by Nikole Hannah-Jones, an Iowa native — in their history lessons. 

For her work on The 1619 Project, Hannah-Jones received the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

Iowa native Nikole Hannah-Jones, who initiated and led The New York Times’ acclaimed collection of writings called The 1619 Project, is pictured at the 2016 Peabody Awards ceremony in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Peabody Awards)

Republican state Rep. Skyler Wheeler introduced the legislation to reduce funding for not just teaching of The 1619 Project, but any similar curriculum that “attempts to deny or obfuscate the fundamental principles upon which the United States was founded.”

According to The Gazette, an Iowa newspaper, Wheeler claimed The 1619 Project seeks to “tear down America.” He called it “leftist political propaganda masquerading as history.”

In his bill, Wheeler wrote that Iowa’s legislature “has a strong interest in promoting an accurate account of this nation’s history through public schools and forming young people into knowledgeable and patriotic citizens.”

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He also expressed his support for “The 1776 Project,” a conservative-led production published this year on MLK Day to counter Hannah-Jones’ Times effort. The inaccurate package commissioned by former President Donald Trump was immediately removed on the day President Joe Biden was inaugurated. 

Wheeler’s bill will now move forward toward consideration by the Iowa House Education Committee this year. 

Black Iowans argued that The 1619 Project presents a “lens” of history that has largely been overlooked. Rep. Ras Smith, a Black Democratic legislator, said he opposes the legislation.

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

Hundreds of public comments about the bill poured in from around the state, and most of them disagreed with it.

“The 1619 Project is fact-based; a legitimate historical resource among many, the use of which is rightfully determined by teachers with input from school administrators,” one commenter wrote. “The selection of curriculum materials is their job, not the legislatures.”

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