Iowa House votes to make schools display U.S. flags
By The Associated Press
DES MOINES, Iowa The state House voted yesterday to force local schools to display American flags in each of the state's 20,000 classrooms.
Rep. Michael Cormack, R-Fort Dodge, said legislators were reacting to the patriotic fever that has swept the country in the wake of terrorist attacks. Since that time, the flag has been on display everywhere, he said.
"There has been no more unifying flag in our country than the (American) flag," said Cormack. "It means something special to everybody."
Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, a teacher, said lawmakers were fiddling with trivial issues while schools are slowly bled dry by a state budget crunch. She noted that the measure approved last night didn't even call for the state to pay for the flags.
"I think it's really sad that if we thought this was important we wouldn't provide the money," said Mascher. "If we're sincere about that we ought to pay for it."
Rep. Bill Witt, D-Cedar Falls, said lawmakers have ignored legitimate needs while focusing on symbolism.
"It's more important to hang a flag over the blackboard than put the money into books," said Witt.
Lawmakers agreed to delay the requirement for a year to give schools a chance to find veterans groups and others who would be willing to help pay for the flags.
Rep. Danny Carroll, R-Grinnell, said the financial effect would be small because most classrooms already display the flag. The flag could be of any size.
"I was reassured it would have little or no impact," said Carroll, a main supporter of the bill.
Democrats decided to add a little symbolism of their own, inserting a requirement that the flags be American-made.
"If we're going to have a flag, we want it to be from America," said Rep. Geri Huser, D-Altoona.
The flag debate erupted as lawmakers debated yet another symbolic issue a measure making it clear that local schools can start the day with a moment of silence for individual reflection by teachers and students.
Supporters of that measure said schools already have the right to have such moments of silence, but many are leery because some local officials are worried they'll be criticized for edging close to school prayers.
Carroll said that the measure simply makes it clear to local schools that lawmakers support their decision to allow a moment of reflection "to engage in any silent activity of their choice."
The larger measure, House File 2516, was approved on a 73-19 vote and now goes to the Senate.
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