Hubbell Posing as Champion of Public Education

In a move, which surprised no one, the Political Action Committee of the Iowa State Education Association endorsed Fred Hubbell, the Democrat candidate for governor, on June 21; teachers’ unions routinely endorse Democrat candidates, who always promise to increase spending on primary and secondary education.

Like a good Democrat, Hubbell on his website laments: “Iowa used to be known as a state that guaranteed a world-class public education, but over the years we’ve seen the legislature play politics with education funding“; while not going very far into detail, he pledges “full and consistent funding,” as if Iowa were not currently spending more than ever before on K-12 education. Hubbell offered more proof that he really is no different from any other Democrat, in this respect at least, in a tweet on July 30, in which he proclaimed: “After years of slashed budgets, Rita and I are ready to get public education back on track, and we’re dedicated to investing in our students and teachers again.” When Democrats talk about “investing,” they mean spending taxpayer dollars to pay off people who voted for them.

It is more than a little strange to see Hubbell harking back to the good old days of Iowa public education, and to hear the president of the ISEA, Tammy Wawro of Cedar Rapids, describe him as “a great friend of public education.” Hubbell himself attended an out-of-state private high school: St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Massachusetts, a boarding school affiliated with the Episcopal Church, founded in 1865; in the photo of the Class of 1969, he appears to be standing fifth from left in the third row.

St. Mark’s School, Southborough, Mass., Class of 1969

The connection of the family with the school goes back farther: his father, James W. Hubbell, Jr., was a member of the Class of 1941; his uncle, Crawford C. Hubbell, was a member of the Class of 1944.

Another relative who attended the school was Frederick W. Hubbell, Jr., who was the first cousin of James W. Hubbell, Jr. (the latter being the father of the gubernatorial candidate, so that the candidate is the first cousin, once removed, of this older Fred Hubbell). The cousin, who seems to have been the first member of the family to attend the school, happened to be a classmate and friend of Benjamin Bradlee, the future editor of the Washington Post; during an outbreak of polio on the campus in the spring of 1936, both boys were stricken on the same day; although Bradlee survived, Fred died two days after being admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, at the end of May 1936, about two weeks short of his 15th birthday. In his autobiography, A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures (New York 1995), Bradlee memorialized Fred movingly: “He was more promising than most of us, a strong and open, trusting boy from Des Moines, Iowa, full of joy and friendship” (p. 17).

Bradlee described the school in the 1930s—when the father of the candidate was attending— thus: “St. Mark’s was one of a dozen citadels of WASP culture that dotted the New England countryside, each giving absolutely first-class educations to young boys preparing to join a world that was slowly ceasing to exist. One hundred eighty boys from the finest (read richest) families, so WASP that the only Jew in the school was a practicing Catholic named Moore, whose mother was a Pulitzer from St. Louis” (p. 16). Bradlee had some ambivalence about the school: “Half a century later boarding schools like St. Mark’s seem hard to explain, especially the single-sex boarding schools…. The education provided was top of the line, but the education not provided—about race, poverty, anti-Semitism, crime, anything remotely counter-cultural—was extensive” (p. 25).

The school was just beginning a process of becoming more diverse when the candidate was attending. Girls were not admitted until 1978, nearly a decade after he left, but integration was underway during his time there. The sole black in the photo of the Class of 1969 actually happens to be the first black ever admitted to St. Mark’s; he had enrolled in 1965, exactly a century after the school’s founding; his name was Ethan Anthony Loney, and he was from Brooklyn, New York. According to an article published in February 2016 by Joey Lyons, a senior student, in the St. Mark’s School Academic Journal (, the moving force in opening the school to blacks was William Barber, who served as Headmaster from 1948 to 1968, whereas a majority of the Board of Trustees, as late as 1964, was averse to making any efforts to integrate; after Barber threatened to resign, the Trustees allowed him to work with the Independent School Talent Search program to identify black students who could attend St. Mark’s with financial help. His previous schooling had not prepared Loney for the more rigorous academics of St. Mark’s, but he worked hard at his studies and excelled at sports; he then went on to attend Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and later became Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at NBC.

St. Mark’s School is still in existence today, and still quite exclusive: for the 2017-2018 school year, day tuition costs $47,540 per year, and boarding tuition costs $59,685 per year.

Nor does it appear to be the case that Hubbell received his primary education in-state at a public school. A profile of Jim Hubbell (James W. Hubbell III), the older brother of the candidate, published on in December 2015, states that he left Des Moines for a preparatory school in Massachusetts at the age of eight; it seems reasonable to assume that their parents made the same arrangements for his younger brother Fred. Their father, James W. Hubbell, Jr. (1922-2009), did attend Park Avenue Elementary School in Des Moines in the later ‘20s and ‘30s; their grandfather, James W. Hubbell (1895-1962), was graduated from West High School in Des Moines in 1913.

In his tweet of July 30, Hubbell declared: “So great to be with the ISEA at their summer conference today. We care deeply about Iowa’s future and our kids, so we have to support our public schools.” But the formulation “our kids” is misleading—or, at any rate, not to be taken literally. His own kids were enrolled at the American School of the Hague, a private school in Wassenaar, the Netherlands, after the family moved to that city. His daughter Lauren attended the American School for two years, and was graduated in 2001; his son Eric attended grades 7-12, and was graduated in 2004; the middle child, Meredith, presumably attended the school as well.

The costs of attending the American School are prohibitive: currently, there is a one-time enrollment fee of € 5,030 ($5,834), an annual capital fee of € 3,430 ($3,978), and annual tuition of € 21,950 ($25,459).

The Hubbell children obtained their post-secondary schooling out-of-state as well. Lauren, like her father, was an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, from 2001 until 2005, and gained a graduate degree from the School of Business at Columbia University in 2012; Meredith received a B.A. from the University of Colorado at Boulder in the fall of 2016; Eric earned a B.S. in Business Administration, with a concentration in Marketing, from the University of Vermont, in Burlington, in 2008.

It is unclear whether the Hubbell children received their primary education in-state, and whether the eldest, Lauren, attended her first two years of high school in-state. If none of the candidate’s children attended an Iowa public school, then the last Hubbell, in his direct line, to be educated in an Iowa public school was his father, who must have finished eighth grade in 1937; the last Hubbell actually to be graduated from an Iowa public high school was his grandfather, who did so in 1913. Connections between the candidate and Iowa public schools, then, certainly do exist, but they are both indirect, and, in the case of Iowa public high schools, at least, very remote.

Nor is Hubbell likely to acquire a closer connection with Iowa public schools through his grandchildren. Although he has three (Lauren has two children, Meredith has one), they do not live in Iowa: Lauren, married to Brian J. Mulholland (since June 2013), lives in New York, New York; Meredith, married to Andrew Stahl (since October 2014), lives in the Los Angeles area. The youngest child, Eric, who does not yet have children, now lives in Colorado; he has been working in Denver since June 2013 at Myhub, a business which he founded, and in addition since April 2017 at Joyrides, a business which he co-founded.

Kim Reynolds has the direct connection with Iowa public schools which Fred Hubbell conspicuously lacks. Born and raised in St. Charles in Madison County, she was educated in the Interstate 35 Community School District, attending elementary school in St. Charles, middle school in New Virginia, and high school in Truro, where she was graduated in 1977. She is, therefore, from kindergarten through 12th grade, a product of Iowa public education.

Gov. Reynolds is also connected with Iowa public education going forward, apart from her current job, in a very personal way, since her three daughters all live in the state, one in Waukee and two in Earlham; currently she has nine grandchildren, all of whom, presumably, will be educated in public schools in the state.

Given the history of the Hubbell family, it is hardly possible to maintain that geography alone is preventing him from acquiring a connection to in-state public schools through his grandchildren. Even if one of his children moved back to Iowa with a child, that grandchild in all probability would not be left to the tender mercies of an Iowa public school; it is likelier by far that it would be sent to a private school, possibly out-of-state, or even tutored at home: after all, the local school could not possibly be better than “world-class,” and “world-class” is just not quite good enough for a scion of so distinguished a stock—we know that it is not because it was in the good old days of “world-class” Iowa public education that the Hubbells began to entrust their children to private boarding schools in Massachusetts.

To put the matter bluntly: when it comes to public education, Fred Hubbell does not have and will not ever have any skin in the game. So, the next time you hear the president of the ISEA, or anybody else, calling Fred Hubbell “a great friend of public education,” ask them, if you get the chance, what form this friendship has taken, or how it was displayed. The best that Hubbell could do to prove that he is what the president of the ISEA says he is: “Some of my best friends went to Iowa public schools.”

The Hubbells have put their money where their mouth is when it comes to Planned Parenthood, but do not seem to have given any sort of support at all to Iowa public schools; his website only mentions, without further details, that he “personally sponsors numerous scholarships to expand higher education opportunities to more Iowans.” He could make the argument that he benefited Iowa public education indirectly by all the donations over the years to Planned Parenthood, since classroom sizes in Iowa would have been larger, but for the abortions performed with his money. Since minorities still today account for a disproportionate amount of the victims of Planned Parenthood, it is an undeniable fact that Hubbell’s generous support of Planned Parenthood has kept Iowa classrooms both smaller and whiter over the last few decades than would otherwise have been the case.

Hubbell’s claims to be a great believer and friend of Iowa public education rests entirely on his willingness, if elected, to throw money at the schools once in office. And remember: that’s your money, not his.