April 9, 2013

Mark Segebart wants to advance a Christian agenda.

His two strongest allies in this endeavor in Carroll have been around long before the Vail state senator came on the scene.

For the past century, St. Anthony Regional Hospital, owned by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, and Kuemper Catholic High School, founded by the visionary priest Joseph Kuemper, have inspired thousands of current and former Carroll-area residents.

The hospital provides Christian care to the vulnerable, those at the beginning and end of life on this earth. St. Anthony is there for rough spots in the middle as well. The Catholic medical center recently launched a successful pastoral care campaign to raise funds for its non-denominational programs for patients and families whose fates are as much in God's hands as they are the talented offices of the physicians and nurses.

For six decades Kuemper has earned a statewide reputation for its quality, Christian-based education.

Kuemper and St. Anthony have many supporting actors in their mission. Des Moines Area Community College is among the most significant.

Hospital and college officials tell me that in the absence of DMACC, and the school's robust nursing program, St. Anthony may very well face a troubling shortage of men and women in that most demanding of professions.

A few blocks to the north, at Kuemper, students benefit from the concurrent-credit courses that allow them to earn DMACC credits in high school - at no additional cost beyond the Kuemper tuition.

"There's a cooperative spirit between DMACC and the high schools," said Kuemper president Vern Henkenius.

The arrangements are working wonderfully for St. Anthony, for Kuemper, for DMACC, and yes, for Christianity itself in Carroll.

We can take faith in the numbers, too.

In the fall semester of 2012, DMACC's Carroll campus issued 2,381 credits to high school juniors and seniors in the region. The kids come from Kuemper, Carroll High, Ar-We-Va, Audubon, Coon Rapids-Bayard, Glidden-Ralston, South Central Calhoun and IKM-Manning. These are college credits earned generally in a concurrent fashion - meaning no tuition costs. If students had to pay for those same credits at Iowa State University - the closest Regents school - the cost would be about $800,000. And that doesn't include room and board and gas to get to Ames. Play that out over a year, and DMACC-Carroll provides more than $1.6 million in college credit to high school kids, using ISU as a base reference.

If the students paid full tuition at DMACC, those fall 2012 credits would run about $320,000 today.

All of these enormous advantages for our young people in the era of spiraling college costs would disappear if our state senator, Mark Segebart of Vail, delivered on a threat he joined in issuing a little over a week ago. Segebart is upset that DMACC's diversity commission paid the registration for a few dozen of its students to attend a governor's conference aimed at preventing bullying of gay kids. DMACC is one of many co-sponsors of the event, and the community college funds a variety of student organizations, including the conservative one most vocal in opposition to the anti-bullying conference Segebart and others believe advances a homosexual lifestyle.

Segebart said he would vote against all state appropriations for DMACC, every last penny, for every program and building, if the school didn't kill its limited participation in the governor's conference.

DMACC held steady on its funding of the conference, held last Wednesday in Altoona.

Segebart didn't drag his fierce opposition to gay marriage and a broader gay-rights agenda out of cold storage. He made those positions a central feature of his campaign last year. Segebart has earned the right to use his office to grind that social-issue ax, and he's representing a prevailing sentiment around here in doing so.

But when he attacks DMACC, he does more to set back the Christian agenda than further it as Kuemper and St. Anthony are powerful delivery vehicles for so much good.

Often, after divorces, parents will obsess over ways to hurt an ex-spouse, to seek vengeance for real and perceived slights. But in the end, the people who end up getting harmed are the kids.

Mark Segebart should think about that.