Strong public schools have always been the foundation of Iowa values and the heart of communities of all sizes.
Over the last two years, educators have been working overtime under tough circumstances to support our kids and make sure they are getting a world-class education.
Like many of us, they are also exhausted.
Every day, I’m hearing from more and more educators that don’t plan to be in the classroom next fall. It’s a troubling development when Iowa already faces a significant workforce shortage.
Honestly, I can’t blame them. They’ve worked under extraordinarily difficult circumstances for the last two years and the message they’ve been hearing from the Iowa Legislature is not one of thanks or compassion. Instead, they’ve been told they have a “sinister” agenda and are being threatened with jail time for doing their jobs.
As an Iowan who received a great education from our public schools, it’s disappointing to see our public schools become the focus of division and politics in Iowa.
With just a month to go in session, the fate of the Governor’s voucher plan, which shifts our tax dollars from public schools to private schools, is still uncertain. It’s been worked on in the Senate and another bill is currently sitting in the Iowa House.
Vouchers have been on the radar for the last several years, but a bill hasn’t made it through the process with stiff opposition from both sides of the aisle. That includes several Republican lawmakers from rural areas who understand vouchers actually take away opportunities from most kids.
With our long history of strong public schools, most Iowans believe that public money should be used for public schools.
While the Governor says it’s all about “choice,” the reality is Iowa parents already have lots of choices for educating their children through homeschooling, private schools, or even open enrollment to another district.
Iowa taxpayers already contribute a significant amount to support nonpublic schools for things like busing, textbooks, and tuition assistance. Over the last six years, state funding for private schools and homeschools has increased by 150 percent while state funding for public schools has barely kept up with rising costs. This year alone, more than $100 million of our public tax dollars will already be spent to support non-public schools.
If the bill is approved, only two percent of Iowa students would benefit while the rest of Iowa kids in public schools would end up losing opportunities. That’s because shifting millions of state dollars out of public schools will result in more school closings and larger class sizes.
At the end of the day, it’s our job to make sure every kid gets a great education, not to offer something new to just a few at the expense of others.
The more Iowans learn about vouchers, the more they realize they aren’t in line with our Iowa values.
I think it’s time to end the uncertainty and scrap the voucher bill. It’s the best move for every Iowa kid and it will send a positive message to teachers that we value their work.