Questions for lawmakers who voted for "school choice"

Dianne Prichard of DeWitt taught in public schools for 33 years before becoming a pastor.

I have questions for the legislators who voted for the "school choice" bill, which Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law on January 24. 

1. How will you support our public schools?

As House File 68 is written, vouchers will harm public schools. 

About 33,000 Iowa students go to private schools now; the governor predicts that number will increase by 5,000 students. Meanwhile, approximately 500,000 Iowa students will remain in underfunded public schools.

Hence, although the governor's plan pays for only 1 percent more students to attend Iowa's private schools, the costs balloon to roughly $340 million a year when phased in, or 9 percent of the basic state aid now going to public K-12 schools now. 

Therefore 90 percent of our schools will have less money to meet state standards, such as the 3R’s (Reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic.) More consequential: public schools provide much more than the 3R's. School lunches, mental health services,  drivers' education, and Talented and Gifted programs are four examples. 

2. How will you hold private schools accountable to taxpayers or the State Board of Education?

They don’t have to teach anything. On the other hand, they can teach anything, like the earth is 4,000 years old or that any child who is too dark, too slow, too mouthy, or too quiet is not worth educating.

3. How will you support rural communities?

Will more rural schools close, negatively impacting their communities?

We pay taxes, trusting that our leaders will use them for the common good. Surely the common good includes robust support of all schools and the communities they serve.

Top photo: Iowa House Speaker Pro-tem John Wills (left) and Speaker Pat Grassley, signing the final version of House File 68. Photo first published on Grassley's Facebook page.

  • Outcomes

    What options do we have for including requirements in administrative rules for the public funding of private schools? Can we ask the private schools to indicate their maximum enrollment capacity for each grade, how many students are on tuition waivers, the rate at which their tuition rises? Are private schools required to participate in mandatory standardized testing? Are they on public transit routes (for older students) or offer transportation for younger students? I am not well-enough versed in the educational systems to know what reporting is currently required and what we could ask for to better guide where the public money will go?

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