Randy Richardson

Costs soar for Iowa's school voucher plan

Randy Richardson is a former educator and retired associate executive director of the Iowa State Education Association.

Governor Kim Reynolds and the Republican-controlled legislature agreed to a budget that allocated $107 million in fiscal year 2024 to pay for private school vouchers for an estimated 14,068 students. But the number of Iowans who applied for “education savings accounts” vastly exceeded that number: 29,025 applications by the June 30 deadline.

The good folks at the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, who usually do an excellent job of forecasting costs, calculated the original estimate. However, when the actual number is more than double your forecast, something is off somewhere.

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Divisive politics, Kim Reynolds, and the Moms for Liberty

Randy Richardson is a former educator and retired associate executive director of the Iowa State Education Association.

The last two presidential elections have highlighted the deep divides between Democrats and Republicans. According to information from the Pew Research Center a month before the 2020 election, roughly 8 in 10 registered voters in both camps said their differences with the other side were about core American values, and roughly 9 in 10—again in both camps—worried that a victory by the other would lead to “lasting harm” to the United States.

Although I’m well aware of this divide and have probably contributed to it in some small way, I still long for the days when a true leader would rise above partisanship and work for the common good of their constituents.

That hope was dashed at the recent Moms for Liberty event in Des Moines on February 2.

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Concept charter school application raises questions

Randy Richardson is a former educator and retired associate executive director of the Iowa State Education Association. Amy Moore, Ed.D is a longtime Iowa public school educator.

Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill in May 2021 that made it easier to organize charter schools in Iowa. Two Iowa-based entities took advantage of the change and applied to start charter schools the following year. Choice Charter School is an online only school for grades 9-12 that enrolled 96 students as on November 4. They hope to increase enrollment to around 300 students by the end of the year.

Hamburg Charter High School is located in Southwest Iowa and operates as a career and technical academy that enrolls 35 students. Hamburg lost its high school in 2015 after the Department of Education found they had overspent state dollars and had offered insufficient classes. The charter school provides an option for high school students in that area.

In November of this year, Iowa received its first charter school application from an out-of-state organization. Concept Schools, an Illinois-based, nonprofit charter school management company, is seeking to open the Horizon Science Academy. If approved, the school would focus on enrolling students from low-income and minority neighborhoods.

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It’s time to talk about teacher pay

Randy Richardson is a former educator and retired associate executive director of the Iowa State Education Association.

In 2019 I wrote a Bleeding Heartland article about the growing disparity between administrative and teacher salaries. At the time I didn’t anticipate that the situation would get much worse. I hoped that Iowa’s ever-increasing rainy day funds might be used when pay became more of a problem. 

Regrettably, here I am again three years later, encouraging Iowans to focus on what has become a major issue.

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Our public schools need a fighter like Shannon Henson

Randy Richardson: Shannon Henson’s background and experience make her most ready to lead among the six Democrats running in Iowa House district 36.

For more than a decade, Republican lawmakers in Iowa have consistently underfunded our public schools and chipped away at the rights of our educators. Teachers and support staff have lost most of their collective bargaining rights, and teachers are now under attack for their so-called “sinister agenda.”

Public schools are the great equalizer. Ideally, they allow children—regardless of their family’s socioeconomic status, the foundation they need for their future. In Iowa, 485,000 children attend our public schools.

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Iowa's flat tax may mean fewer public services

Randy Richardson: Everyone likes paying lower taxes until they realize they may not receive the same benefits from the government.

Americans hate taxes. Other countries have taxes, including some with much higher tax rates, but for some reason their citizens don’t have the same objections as their American counterparts.

There are a variety of reasons for this, but one of the most common is that many Americans are simply unaware of what government does for them. A 2008 Cornell Survey Research Institute poll showed that 57 percent of respondents said they had never participated in a government social program. However, 94 percent of these same respondents reported being the beneficiary of at least one federal government program, with the average participant benefiting from four of them.

Which brings me to the recently enacted flat income tax bill in Iowa.

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