In 2011, fourth-grader Mira Bohannan Kumar was thrilled to start her new life at Willowwind School, a private pre-K through sixth-grade school in Iowa City. Kumar "had trouble fitting in" at her old school, she told the Iowa City Press-Citizen, and she couldn't wait to take advantage of the smaller class sizes, individual attention, and advanced curriculum her newfound private education offered.
Roughly a decade later, Kumar's mother, Iowa Democrat Christina Bohannan, is fighting to make it harder for local children to enjoy the same private school experience.
Bohannan, who is running to unseat Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R.), has railed against school choice as a state lawmaker. In a January 2021 newsletter, she blasted Iowa governor Kim Reynolds (R.) for contending that children "should have the right to leave ‘failing' schools," calling the remark "infuriating." Roughly one year later, during an April interview, she said Iowans "have to get over this fixation with vouchers," which allow parents in failing public school districts to use government funds to send their children to private schools.
Bohannan's charged-up rhetoric, however, has never included the admission that she sent her own daughter to private school in search of a better educational environment. Bohannan told the Press-Citizen that she made the change because Willowwind "emphasizes a personalized education" that "allows every student to have an individualized learning plan" and "fosters kindness." "Our daughter is thriving at Willowwind, and we couldn't be happier," Bohannan said in December 2011. "She feels like she did something to contribute to her education." Roughly one year later, the Democrat joined Willowwind's board of trustees and served as the private school's foundation president, her résumé shows.
Bohannan's daughter attended Willowwind thanks to a "merit-based scholarship" she received, Bohannan told the Press-Citizen. As a state legislator, however, the Democrat has vocally opposed programs that would create more scholarships to send Iowa students to private schools. In 2021, Bohannan attacked Reynolds's "Student First Scholarship Program," which would produce up to 10,000 scholarships per year for families to pay for private school expenses. Willowwind's maximum K-6 tuition for the 2022-23 school year is $14,000, according to the school's website.
Bohannan did not return a request for comment. Her daughter's private school experience appears to have paid dividends—in 2020, Bohannan's daughter began attending Wellesley College, a "most selective" private women's liberal arts school that boasts alumni such as Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and Diane Sawyer.
Bohannan has argued for more public education spending in Iowa, but it's unclear where she wants to get the funds and exactly how she wants to spend them—the Democrat's campaign site has not featured a "policy" section since she launched her bid against Miller-Meeks in August.
Bohannan has presented herself as a moderate in her bid to flip Iowa's First Congressional District, which election forecaster FiveThirtyEight rates as "highly competitive." But just two years ago, Bohannan ran as an unabashed progressive in her primary fight against former Democratic state lawmaker Vicki Lensing. Bohannan's 2020 campaign site, for example, called voter ID laws "a threat to democratic governance" and endorsed taxpayer-funded sex change surgeries. Bohannan scrubbed the site before she launched her campaign against Miller-Meeks.
As a University of Iowa law professor, Bohannan has also embraced radical crime policies that are widely unpopular in the Hawkeye State.
In June 2020, Bohannan, who served as faculty chairwoman of the law school's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, penned a letter that encouraged students and staff to support the Minnesota Freedom Fund and National Bail Out Fund. The two nonprofits support defunding the police, and the Minnesota Freedom Fund has paid to free heinous criminals, including an alleged domestic abuser who was arrested for murder just weeks after his release. Eighty-eight percent of Iowans trust their local police department, according to a September Des Moines Register poll.
Bohannan does not have a primary opponent and will face Miller-Meeks in November. The Democrat has raised $1.1 million to Miller-Meeks's $2.4 million.