Iowa’s public education system was established upon our 1846 statehood. Today, parents have six options for their children’s education: public school, public school in another neighborhood through open enrollment, virtual academy, private school, home school and independent private instruction.

With Iowa’s bountiful six school options, lawmakers want to increase our current public taxpayer outlay from $52,311,145 for school choice to $240,000,000 as noted in House File 9, Senate File 29 and public commentary by Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls.

Few people realize $52 million of Iowa’s $7.5 billion budget subsidizes 44,226 privately educated students, and sometimes the money goes directly to parents.

Public funding for private education is allocated as follows: $15.5 million for tuition and textbook tax credits, $12 million for school tuition tax credit, $8.2 million for nonpublic transportation reimbursement, $650,000 for nonpublic textbook reimbursement, $2 million for home school assistance payments given to home school parents, $1.6 million for classes in public schools that nonpublic students attend and $13 million for community partners preschool of 4-year-olds.

According to the Iowa Poll (Selzer and Co.; Dec. 3-6, 2017), education is Iowans’ top priority and only 35 percent of citizens approve of the current Republican-controlled Legislature’s education funding allocation. Furthermore, 65 percent of Iowans do not want private education to be supported by public funds.

Iowa’s budget is already $75 million in the red, an additional $45 million to $90 million spending cut is forthcoming and 2018 income projections are not rosy.

Question: Where would supplemental money come from to increase Iowa’s existing $52 million school choice allocation to $240 million? Answer: Public education, causing all of Iowa’s public school districts to greatly suffer. Rogers is hoodwinking the public by his claim HF 9 and SF 29 is “revenue neutral.” Money will be siphoned away from public education and given to private education providers.

Public schools are required to be held accountable for teacher certification, educational attainment, student attendance, health maintenance and are controlled by a publicly elected school board. Since 2013, anyone can teach a home-school educated child. The instructor needs no teacher certification, let alone a GED, and no record of the student’s attendance, health record or educational achievement are required. Iowans still grieve over the recent deaths of home-schooled Natalie Finn and Sabrina Ray.

Other school choice issues have been kept relatively quiet from the public, including: 1) there is little statistically significant evidence voucher programs of any kind have improved educational outcomes; 2) nonpublic funding of education usually benefits the rich; and 3) students who are intellectually challenged, disabled, of the “wrong” religion, race, social class and/or have discipline problems could easily be shunned by private institutions and would have no protection of their constitutional rights.

Since 1846, Iowa’s public funds were to be spent for the public good. Public education and privatized schooling in Iowa have established a good-to-great working partnership, respecting each other’s unique role, function and purpose. Allocating $52 million of Iowa’s hard-earned tax money to support nonpublic and home schooling is generous to a fault.

A test of representation is before our legislators. If they represent the people and know 65 percent of Iowans don’t want public funds to go to private education, will they ignore the will of their constituents or be responsible, mature legislators, put the public before their party and defeat the proposed school choice bills?

Apprise the following Education Committee legislators of your feelings about HF 9, SF 29 and allocating $240 million (4.6 times current level) for school choice: Rep. Walt Rogers (R-Cedar Falls; Walt.Rogers@legis.iowa.gov), Rep. Sharon Steckman (D-Mason City; Sharon.Steckman@legis.iowa.gov), Sen. Amy Sinclair (R-Allerton; Amy.Sinclair@legis.iowa.gov) and Sen. Jeff Danielson (D-Cedar Falls; JeffDanielson@gmail.com).

Steve Corbin is an emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa. He is married to Doris J. Kelley, Iowa House of Representatives, 2007-2011, who lost to Walt Rogers.

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