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For the last several years, Republican lawmakers have offered various bills on vouchers for private schools and this year is no different. Unfortunately, this is the first year that a  bill on vouchers has been approved by one of the chambers in the Iowa Legislature. 

While the bill was met with strong opposition from students, parents, teachers, and school leaders, Senate File 159 was approved by the Iowa Senate last week. The Legislature should not be working on a bill to divert $53 million in state tax dollars to private schools – especially not during this pandemic, when schools are already facing historic challenges.

Iowa parents already have many options for educating their children, including open enrollment, private schools, and homeschooling. The State of Iowa also additionally provides millions in public tax dollars for private schools and homeschool assistance. That includes millions in tax credits to private and corporate donors that get state tax incentives for donations to nonprofit organizations that fund tuition scholarships for private schools and homeschools.

Iowa’s publicly funded Area Education Agencies (AEA) also provides support to private schools for special education programs, health services, services for remedial education programs, guidance services, and school testing services.

In my own district in north central Iowa, the voucher bill would be devastating for students in our public schools. It would create chaos and lead to more school closures, especially in rural areas. 

Many Iowans I’ve heard from have also voiced concerns that taking away more money from schools when they are already underfunded will result in higher class sizes and fewer opportunities for kids in public schools.

I believe that public money should stay with our public schools. It’s the only way to ensure that every kid in Iowa gets a good education.

I hope Iowans will contact their lawmakers and stand up for public schools. That means NO vouchers in Iowa.  

Author: Todd Prichard