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In last week’s edition of Freedom Watch I outlined the Governor’s STUDENTS FIRST ACT. In this week’s edition, I will provide additional information, including misconceptions and truths about School Choice, including data from other states that have similar policies in place to the proposals we are considering.

Misconception: Public money should not be used for private schools.
Truth: Taxpayer money, often referred to in this discussion as public money, already goes to many private entities all over the state and nation. We do not require WIC or SNAP recipients to use public grocery stores. Medicare recipients are not forced to use only public hospitals. Here in Iowa, the Iowa Tuition Grant has been used for years to fund students going to private colleges. The Governor’s school choice proposals look very similar to the Iowa Tuition Grant, but for K-12 education. Iowa Tuition Grants allow Iowa students to have more choices and access when they select the university or college that best fits their needs. This is not much different from the Governor’s proposal for K-12 students, creating more choices for students and parents.

Misconception: School Choice will deny funding for public schools.
Truth: Under the Governor’s plan, for the first time, public schools will receive approximately $1,205 for every student from their district that is attending a private school. This has never been the case before. This amount will increase as categorical funding is increased. In the first year that a family chooses to send their child to a private school and receive this funding, public schools will still get the $7,598 they normally receive for a student, even though the student chooses to attend a private school. The state in effect will double-pay the first year, which will minimize any funding disruptions for public schools. After year one, the public school would continue to receive the approximately $1,205 in categorical funding from the state, even though the student is enrolled in a private school, but will no longer receive the $7,598, since those funds are following the child to the accredited school that best fits their needs. This means that the costs normally associated with that student will also leave the public school, with the public school now receiving the $1,205 for every student going to a private school.

The Governor’s proposals also allow public school districts more flexibility in being able to use some categorical funding to increase teacher salaries.

Misconception: Data shows that school choice does not improve student outcomes.
Truth: As is the case with almost every controversial issue, you can find data to support both sides of an argument. However, I believe the data on school choice convincingly shows that both private and public-school outcomes improve where school choice is present. The vast majority of studies support this conclusion. One study I reviewed reported that out of 17 studies of school choice participants, eleven reported an increase in student outcomes, four reported no change and only two reported negative effects. At the end of my newsletter, I will include several links to articles that show the positive outcomes of school choice.

Studies also suggest that when school choice is present, civic engagement increases, and parental satisfaction improves. Caroline Hoxby, an economics professor at Stanford University, found positive effects on the teaching profession from school choice programs.

Misconception: Private Schools do not take special needs students.
Truth: Studies show that a large percentage of students in private schools in Arizona, where school choice programs have existed for over two decades, have special needs. There are also special needs students in Iowa’s private schools. Additionally, once private schools have access to increased funding with the creation of school choice, they would likely be able to increase their support of students with special needs.

Misconception: Private Schools discriminate against certain students while public schools take all students.
Truth: While it is certainly true that public schools take almost all students, private schools exist to meet a variety of needs of families who want something other than what public schools offer. Perhaps it is a more faith-based approach, perhaps it is a focus on a certain academic specialty. If a need exists following the passage of school choice in Iowa, private schools are likely to be formed to meet those needs. Specialization is not discrimination but rather a different approach to meet the ever-changing needs of students.

Misconception: Accredited private schools lack accountability requirements.
Truth: Accredited private schools have numerous annual reporting requirements, which include:
-Enrollment numbers
-Gender and ethnicity of students
-Bullying data
-Accreditation requirements (health, safety, etc.)
-Reports to accrediting agencies which include teacher certifications, safety drills, progress on school improvement plans, independent audit/assessment of financials, and adherence to all laws related to nonpublic schools
-Title funding usage data and details
– Annual reports to parents and constituents that include financial data and student assessment scores. Answering to parents is the most important measure of accountability, for parents can measure success for their children far better than government agencies ever could.

Misconception: School Choice will destroy or weaken public schools.
Truth: This is the most misleading of all the claims made in opposition to school choice programs. In states such as Arizona, where aggressive school choice programs have existed for over twenty years, only about 5% of students attend private schools. On average it is a very small percentage of students who leave public schools for private schools when these programs go into effect (1-3%). Of those percentages, even smaller amounts leave rural public schools. There is not a single public school in the nation that has closed its doors because of school choice.

If in fact, a huge number of students were to leave public schools to attend accredited private schools, then it becomes profoundly clear just how important it was that we gave parents greater choice, since such an exodus would lay bare the reality that these schools were not meeting the needs of our students.

Myth: School choice is an attack on public-school teachers.
Truth: Iowa is blessed to have many resolute public-school teachers doing their best to meet the needs of their students in an environment that worsens by the day. They have lost most of the tools necessary to maintain discipline in the classroom, and the breakdown of our families has forced schools to take on an ever-increasing level of responsibility, with teachers having to deal with behavioral issues that make their jobs incredibly challenging. We should pray for our teachers every day, while working to find ways to help them be more successful. We must also reject the arguments of special interest groups that seek to confuse the issues before us. School choice does not in any way take away from the work our public-school teachers are doing. Ultimately, we must not simply fund the status quo if we are to improve education. It is past time to fund our students, not the education establishment.

We can support public education and public-school teachers, while also embracing positive change. Let’s choose our students and families over the education bureaucracy that seeks to protect itself by rejecting innovative ideas that will improve education for all.

Myth: The state cannot afford school choice.
Truth: Statement from the Speaker of the Iowa House, Pat Grassley: “I’ve heard some people cite concerns about the cost of HSB 1. As former Appropriations chair, I can assure you that we would not pass any plan that our state cannot afford. House Republicans have a reputation at the Capitol for being very cautious when it comes to the state budget. This has not changed. When fully implemented in FY 29, the projected cost of this program is $341 million. In the same year, the state is projected to spend $3.9 BILLION on public education. Given current projections, in that same year the state will have a $3.1 BILLION ending balance and $3.7 BILLION in the Taxpayer Relief Fund. Ultimately, $341 million amounts to just 4% of the state’s annual budget. This program is not an existential threat to public education. Iowa can afford HSB 1.”

I look forward to Republicans in the House and Senate taking decisive action soon to bring school choice to Iowa by passing HSB1, the Governor’s STUDENTS FIRST ACT.

I am honored to serve as your State Representative. You can email me at [email protected]


The evidence is clear – education choice improves outcomes | Education | belgrade-news.com

3 Reasons to Support School Choice – Foundation for Economic Education (fee.org)

Author: Steven Holt


  1. Thank you Representative Holt for laying out in a clear way information about this Iowa School Choice bill. I am grateful that we have leaders and representatives advocating for the children of Iowa. It cannot be easy going against the public education industrial complex.
    Thank you all for your courage on this,


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