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Iowa Republican pushing education reform got his degree from Sizzler

Chelgren in front of his alma mater. (Photo: IowaSenateRepublicans.com and Sizzler)
Chelgren in front of his alma mater. (Photo: IowaSenateRepublicans.com and Sizzler)

Amid the most pressing concerns being addressed by newly appointed U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, besides bears, is the proliferation of liberal college professors, whom DeVos believes are telling their students what to say, do, and “more ominously, what to think.” Ensuring these students also vaguely hear some conservative stuff while flipping through Instagram has now become a national concern, one recently championed in a bill introduced by Mark Chelgren, a Republican state senator in Iowa, that would force faculty members to declare their political affiliations, then pass on hiring them if they tipped the school’s scales toward a liberal majority. It is a very dumb bill—“one of the worst ideas I’ve heard in 15 years here,” his fellow state Senator Sen. Herman Quirmbach declared, even counting Chelgren’s 2016 bill to prohibit the University of Iowa from ever cooperating with Stanford University until it apologized for a marching band skit. But now it is also an exceptionally funny one, given that it led to the revelation that Chelgren apparently got his “business degree” from Sizzler.

Chelgren has made his own negative experience with “liberal professors” a cornerstone of lobbying for the bill, citing an educational background that, according to his bio on the Iowa State Republicans homepage, included a “degree in business management from Forbco Management school.” As NBC News soon discovered, Forbco Management school belongs to the same conference as Bovine University: Forbco is actually the name of a company that once operated a Southern California franchise of the Sizzler family dining chain, a storied institution of higher learning where Chelgren majored in keeping gravy out of the salad bar.

Or, as Chelgren defensively put it after the story broke, “I spent six months in order to be promoted from associate manager to assistant manager when I was 19. I had to take their school and their classes and they gave me their degree—as they termed it—and I have used that terminology.” To Chelgren, it’s all just a matter of “semantics” over whether he obtained “a degree in hotel restaurant management” or a “certificate,” likely Xeroxed by the 23-year-old Sizzler trainer on the tenure track, acknowledging that he’d dutifully sat through training courses on upselling drinks and not letting dishes linger in the expo, and could now be trusted with the keys to the dumpster padlocks. (“Well Done!” it presumably said next to a grilled cartoon steak, surrounded by clip-art filigree.)

But to Ed Failor, spokesman for the Iowa State Republicans and a graduate of the University of Sick Burns, “This was a management course he took when he worked for Sizzler, kind of like Hamburger University at McDonald’s. He got a certificate.” Further pressed on Chelgren’s claims that he’d actually earned a college degree, Failor responded, “That’s not accurate.”

Accordingly, although Chelgren flatly denies inflating or misrepresenting his credentials, his bio has since been updated to strip him of his hard-won degree in serving good steaks. It does, however, still list him as attending “the University of California at Riverside majoring in astro-physics, geo-physics and mathematics,” which he told NBC he did for three years, surely grimly enduring all the liberal dogma being spewed about quasars.

Talking to the university, NBC was able to confirm that he did attend and “major in physics” from 1992 all the way to 1993—a span of one year that somehow works out to three, though I’m at a loss to explain it, having neither majored in astrophysics nor tasty appetizers. Instead, I just got a “liberal arts” degree from a bunch of liberal college professors, which obviously makes me far less qualified to weigh in on how to reform the educational system than a guy with a certificate from Sizzler.

Prior to this, Chelgren was best known as a guy who did Toby Keith cosplay to talk to NRA members, proposed that illegal immigrants who attempt to reenter the country should be executed, and who once compared preschool to Nazi indoctrination. It’s always sad to see an estimable political career like that overshadowed by such trifling personal scandal. But—as a Sizzler-certified “student of history”—Chelgren must recognize that you have to clean out the steamer trays when they get all crusty with shit.

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