GOP Rep. Meyer says she likely won’t support school choice bill, Sen. Kraayenbrink corrects misconceptions with the bill

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Republican state legislators differed on Friday during a legislative forum in Fort Dodge. GOP Rep. Ann Meyer said she is not likely to support the Students First Act, a bill that passed the Iowa Senate on Thursday.

The bill does many things, but most importantly it allows for school choice when it comes to Iowa’s 34 failing schools.

It adheres to two key GOP platform principles:

  1. We believe that parents are responsible for their children, and we support the rights of parents to be the ultimate authority for the discipline, protection, and education of their children.
  2. We believe money should follow the child in education – whether that child attends public, private, parochial or home school- to assist parents financially in educating their children using the option best suited to their family’s educational needs. We call on the General Assembly to provide for tuition vouchers, tax deductions, or tax credits to permit parents’ choice in educating their children- without government intervention in the school curriculum.

Yet Meyer is suggesting she’ll stand against the platform, against school choice and against Iowa parents.

Meyer said her concern is that if the state is giving public dollars to private schools, those private schools are not under the same restrictions that public schools are.

“So, for instance, private schools are not required to take every child,” she said. “Public schools are.”

Meyer said she wants to make sure that there are equitable restrictions in place if private schools are being given public dollars.

She acknowledged there are kids stuck in a bad school around the state due to the voluntary diversity plans of some districts.

“This is a big bill, there are a lot of parts to it, but what I’ve heard about is mainly the voucher system,” she said. “Those are my concerns with it, and I’m hearing the same concerns from a lot of my members in the House. Unless we have some changes in the requirements of the private schools, I probably won’t be supporting that.”

Senator Tim Kraayenbrink chimed in to clear up a few things.

“The funds don’t go to the private school — the scholarship goes to the student and the parents,” he said. “And that parent then decides what school is best for their child.”

Kraayenbrink added that the bill does not involve IEPs or special ed students. There are also failing schools, he said, that are failing schools on the list for “legitimate reasons.”

A lot of people have already open enrolled students to other districts if they aren’t satisfied with the education in their home district, Kraayenbrink said.

“I think a lot of the rural areas that we’re receiving emails from that think this is going to close every rural school, I just don’t see where that comes from because a lot of those schools have open enrollment already and the parents are satisfied,” he said. “I have to differ with my colleague from the House that this money goes to the student and the parent, it does not go directly to a private school and we’re not talking about IEP students or special education students.”

Kraayenbrink noted that the private school lobby has said they’d love to take as many students as possible. And the only way they’ll turn anyone away is if they run out of capacity. Which is exactly what some public schools have done with open enrollment.

“You could say then that that school doesn’t have to accept everybody that wants to come there either,” he said. “I just think it’s not a real excuse because I’m sure every school is willing to educate every child. But remember, when we’re talking about a school you’re talking about a system. When you’re talking about money taken away from a school, you’re talking about money being taken away from a system. When you’re talking about children in education, that should be our mission in the Iowa Senate and House, and should be every school board’s mission. They shouldn’t worry about the system, they should worry about the children.”

Author: Jacob Hall