Democrat State Sen. Claire Celsi did not support Governor Kim Reynolds’ school choice/transparency bill during a Wednesday Iowa Senate Appropriations subcommittee meeting.
Celsi, who said she attended Catholic school and graduated from Dowling Catholic, inquired of her father what he was thinking while raising the money to build Dowling. She said she asked him if eventually they wanted to get public dollars to supplement their budget.
“He said no,” she said. “In fact, it was just the opposite.”
Celsi’s father told her they wanted a place to continue the religious training and felt free to do that at Dowling.
“But we realized it would be on our own dime,” she said. “And we never once expected the public schools to pick up the tab. In fact, we were specifically avoiding that.”
Since then, though, Celsi said Catholic schools have found out “good school costs money.” When she went to Dowling, she said nuns and priests ran the place and were paid $20,000 a year.
But now they have to pay high salaries as well as benefits to go along with the inflation of other expenses.
Besides, Celsi said even if the “vouchers” (meaning Education Savings Accounts which are different from vouchers) go to private schools, there will still be somewhere between $3,000-$5,000 families have to come up with to afford the difference in the tuition.
“So this notion that, you know, school choice is the taxpayer’s problem – no it’s not,” she said. “My charge as a state senator and this place where I work – the State Capitol – is responsible for public education. If someone else wants to make another choice to go to a different school, you pay for it. That is the deal.
“It’s already existing. It’s been existing for decades. I can’t help it that you can’t meet your budget. That is not my problem and it’s not the problem of 92 percent of Iowans who send their kids to public schools and want their (public) schools to be fully funded. We can’t even manage to fully fund our (public) schools right now. Why on earth are we even considering something like this. It is bogus. It’s a bogus concept.”
Celsi also expressed concern over the private contractors that will be managing the program. She noted billions of dollars in fraud in other states with similar programs. She then said public taxpayers shouldn’t have to fund a tutoring company if parents choose to utilize such a company for their children.
“You want to send your kid to Mathnasium, go ahead, don’t expect the taxpayers to pay up,” she said. “That is not fair.”
Finally, Celsi said she was concerned other things weren’t addressed in the bill for low-income families such as transportation, meals, supplies and uniforms.
“This bill should not be here,” she said. “It is not right. Public money is for public schools, period.”