Neil BockCarroll County Supervisor
Neil Bock

Carroll County Supervisor
April 8, 2013

State Sen. Mark Segebart, R-Vail, Saturday morning reinforced his threat to kill all state funding for Des Moines Area Community College to punish to the institution for co-sponsoring a governor's anti-bullying conference he believes advanced the homosexual lifestyle.

What's more, a Carroll County supervisor and member of the Carroll Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee said during a chamber forum in Manning that they supported Segebart's positions and tactics on the matter.

"In most of the dealings with the Legislature, with the bureaucracy, the best way to get their attention, is to start talking about their funding," Segebart said. "Until that happens, you get the runaround and nothing will happen. This is a strong enough issue for me. I think everybody who signed it wanted to get their attention, and this was the venue they used."

On March 28, Segebart joined 15 other Republican legislators in signing a pledge to vote against appropriations to DMACC unless the college de-funded the reported $1,000 its diversity commission used to pay for 50 students to attend the conference.

"We cannot in good conscience vote to give taxpayer dollars to people or groups who pervert the Bible and teach our youth to engage in dangerous behaviors," Segebart said, referencing the pledge.

He added, "DMACC is what we were referring there to."

During questioning at the forum, Segebart initially suggested he believed the pledge he signed related to just the $1,000 - not all state money for the community college network.

"That was the amount that I was referring to and that I understood to be the amount of funds to be kept," Segebart said. "I never did understand that it was to be the total budget for DMACC or any other community college as far as that is concerned."

DMACC reported more than 38,000 students enrolled in its classes across Iowa last academic year. There are about 950 students at DMACC's Carroll campus this school year, including many high school students earning college credits.

Segebart insisted he never meant to challenge all funding for the school.

"At least that was not in my mind," he said.

But when asked if he read the pledge - which clearly threatens all state appropriations for DMACC - Segebart said he had reviewed it before signing.

"There are things that we need to do and to send a message," Segebart said.

Carroll County Supervisor Neil Bock, a Republican, said he agreed with Segebart's position - and the political strategy that involved potential de-funding of DMACC.

"I think by and large this district does not like immorality to be funded with tax dollars," Bock said. "Sometimes the mechanism used to achieve the results may be a little bit awkward."

Segebart represents Iowa Senate District 6, which includes Audubon, Carroll, Sac and Buena Vista counties and the eastern slice of Crawford County where he farms.

Jean Ludwig, a member of the Carroll Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee, said DMACC is advancing a homosexual agenda through its sponsorship of the conference.

"I wanted to support you in your actions in this regard, mainly because it does bring attention to the fact that we do need have some control over what our colleges are doing," Ludwig told Segebart during the legislative forum at the Methodist Church in Manning.

The eighth annual Iowa Governor's Conference on LGBTQ Youth was put on by Iowa Safe Schools. Co-sponsors were by Aviva, Rockwell Collins, Capital City Pride, the Diversity Commission of DMACC, the Iowa State Education Agency, Nationwide Insurance and the School Administrators of Iowa.

Local DMACC school officials said they are not aware of any students from the Carroll campus who attended the Governor's Conference on LGBTQ Youth (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people) in Altoona last Wednesday. The Daily Times Herald did not encounter any Carroll campus students in covering the event. About 800 students attended the conference. Students at the Carroll campus generally are involved in organizations like academic honor societies and those aimed at nursing development, local school officials said.

Conservative activists have pressured Gov. Terry Branstad to remove the name of his office, and its credibility, from the title of the conference. The governor has not attended the event but released a statement in support of it.

Segebart said the Iowa Safe Schools Coalition is focused exclusively on homosexual and transgender issues with overt rhetorical attacks on the political right. He said some at the conference were engaging in bullying themselves by criticizing Christians and social conservatives with programs such as "Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad, Right Wing" and "For the Bible Tells Me So."

"I can't tolerate bullying one way or the other, but in this case, most of the parts of this program - which Iowa Safe Schools were offering - seemed to be targeting or advancing the gay agenda," Segebart said.

In a phone interview this morning, DMACC President Rob Denson said the school has a number of student groups that run the political spectrum.

"We will treat them exactly the same way," Denson said, noting that the conservative Young Americans for Freedom will receive support for its activities through the school as well.

Students are best served when they have access to a variety of opinions and diverse information, Denson said. The school's involvement in the governor's conference last week amounts to defraying the registration costs for 50 students, Denson said.

"We didn't host this governor's event," he said. "It wasn't at our location."

Denson said it is significant that Branstad is allowing his office's name to be used to brand the conference. What's more, Denson said, the school can't possibly vet every speaker and conference participant before the diversity commission provides funding for off-campus student attendance.

"It would be very difficult if we tried to analyze every part of every program," Denson said.

Denson said most legislators are satisfied with DMACC's position of treating student-interest groups equally.

"I would agree with that position," Segebart said. "Finding this out, that's a legitimate and an honest way to approach any of those groups that are recognized groups at any of our colleges and any of our community colleges."

Former Iowa Lt. Gov. Art Neu, who as mayor of Carroll helped recruit DMACC to Carroll and has worked for years on growth of programs at the campus, said Segebart's threat is outrageous.

"To suggest that we de-fund the whole college because of one program isn't responsible," Neu said at the Manning forum, which was attended by about 50 people.

DMACC's Carroll campus works closely with Carroll-area high schools to offer concurrent credits - allowing students to begin working toward college degrees while still in high school. Glidden-Ralston relies on DMACC for chemistry and physics classes. Kuemper Catholic High School provides a psychology class through DMACC, among other associations. IKM-Manning, South Central Calhoun and Coon Rapids-Bayard also are among the schools involved with DMACC.

Kuemper president Vern Henkenius said this morning that DMACC is an important cog in the educational system of the Carroll area, that Kuemper couldn't offer certain courses in DMACC's absence.

Henkenius said Segebart's positioning on the controversial conference and DMACC funding appeared to stem from an "emotional response."

"It probably shouldn't have been mixed with funding for an educational institution," Henkenius said.

Segebart said he is not aware of any active legislative measures aimed at stripping DMACC funding.