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School Choice is a Winner for Iowa In this year’s legislative session, school choice is once again being debated. This year’s school choice legislation favored by Gov. Kim Reynolds is being advocated as a solution for the thirty-four schools identified as failing under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

In past years I watched this issue being debated during legislative sessions and in panel discussions at the Pottawattamie County legislative coffees. The panel discussions usually involved former Democrat State Senator and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and former Republican State Representative and Educational Committee Chairman Greg Forristall, the two most at odds at the time on the issue of school choice in the Iowa legislature.

As Chairman of the House Education Committee, Representative Forristall argued the need for school choice as a means of providing competition that would give parents and students more educational choices to fit individual needs. Senator Gronstal, who garnered much of his support from the Iowa State Education Association (IAEA), was a staunch opponent of any school choice legislation that would compel schools to compete for students. For Senator Gronstal, it was not about improving Iowa K-12 education, it was about obstructing Iowa K-12 education reform to satisfy his IAEA Union support.

As it was back then, so it is today. Only now, the names on the debate list have changed. Gone from the debate are the names of Mike Gronstal and Greg Forristall. The one name we can add to the debate list this year is Republican State Representative Brent Siegrist.

Representative Siegrist is my State Representative, and much to my chagrin he has taken up former Senator Gronstal’s opposition to any school choice legislation. It is a bad decision that goes against the sentiment of most Iowa Republicans, and it goes against the Iowa Republican Party platform.

No doubt these failing schools will be asking for more money to better their student achievement rankings. With Iowa’s K-12 education budget at nearly $3.4 billion, what good will it do to give failing schools more money? Is $3.4 billion not enough?

Representative Forristall’s creative vision for Iowa education reform centered on educational choices to fit individual needs. It was a vision that included charter schools, virtual schools, school voucher programs, and increased home school funding. That is the vision I support, and the vision I would encourage Representative Siegrist to embrace.

*Jeff Jorgensen
Council Bluffs, IA