# Education



Don't bring a spoon to a knife fight

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and has been connected to Iowa’s public schools for 38 years. He taught for eleven years and represented educators as an Iowa State Education Association regional director for 27 years until retiring

The poet Maya Angelou said it best: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

For the third straight year, Governor Kim Reynolds told Iowa she wanted public money to fund private schools.  She told us who she was. The 52 percent of Iowans who oppose public funds for private school costs should have believed her and voted for her opponent last year.

But the election is over, and we still need to protect our public schools. 

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Using Republican logic on their school voucher plan

“Strong Island Hawk” is an Iowa Democrat and political researcher based in Des Moines. Prior to moving to Iowa, he lived in Washington, DC where he worked for one of the nation’s top public interest groups. In Iowa, has worked and volunteered on U.S. Representative Cindy Axne’s 2018 campaign and Senator Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 caucus team. 

I love a good argument. Maybe that’s because I hail from a family of lawyers and big talkers, all of whom very much like to argue. In any event, I love crafting a solid case for my position. Even more than that, I love to break down and pick apart weak arguments.

Over the past month, Governor Kim Reynolds’ private school funding plan has come under scrutiny from Democrats and Republicans alike—for good reason. I somewhat empathize with what Reynolds advocated. I transferred high schools, and it was certainly good to have the option—although for me, the better choice was transferring back to public school.

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Public education: Poison or promise?

The co-authors of this commentary are Tim Urban, president of Urban Development Corporation and a former Des Moines City Council member, and Lawrence Streyffeler, a retired Des Moines Public Schools elementary school principal.

The recent attacks by parents and politicians on our public schools are poisoning public education. Many states have recently empowered private education institutions by supporting charter schools, homeschooling, and state-funded vouchers for students to attend private schools instead of their local public schools.

Proponents argue that the declining quality of student performance in public schools warrants giving parents a choice where to educate their children. They often cite parents who want to enrich their children’s education, but cannot pay for it.

Such student outcomes are self-fulfilling In Iowa when public schools are starved.

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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.

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Schools choose

Jonna Higgins-Freese: Private schools choose their students. They have in the past, and they will in the future.

I’m slightly obsessed with George Lakoff, his cognitive science research about the metaphors we think with, and his recommendations for Democratic messaging (which we have mostly ignored; the national party fired him in 2006).

So you can imagine how delighted I’ve been to see Democrats finally adopting his suggestion to talk more about “the public.”

“Public Money in Public Schools” signs have been appearing all over my community for more than a year, and they have exactly the right message. 

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The twelve Iowa Republicans who voted against school vouchers

Less than two weeks after making her latest pitch for “school choice,” Governor Kim Reynolds got what she wanted. The Republican-controlled legislature approved the governor’s expansive school voucher program, by 55 votes to 45 in the Iowa House and 31 votes to 18 in the Senate.

The state of play in the lower chamber was in doubt as recently as a few days ago. Reynolds had only one public event on her schedule last week, but she held private meetings with more than a few House Republicans who either opposed her plan or were on the fence about approving an unlimited new entitlement for families choosing private schools. According to the fiscal analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, which does not include all expenses, the proposal will cost Iowa’s general fund an additional $878.8 million over the next four fiscal years, with costs reaching about $345 million during the fourth year.

House leaders changed the chamber’s rules to keep the voucher bill out of the Appropriations and Ways and Means committees, where there might not have been enough Republican support to send the legislation to the floor. Senate leaders used a procedural trick to prevent any Democratic amendments from being considered.

No GOP lawmakers spoke against the bill during the floor debates in either chamber. Three Republican holdouts (State Representatives Chad Ingels, Brian Lohse, and Tom Moore) indicated during the five-hour House session that they would like to be recognized by the chair. But each turned off their light at some point before being called on to speak.

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