Governor Reynolds released SF 159 last week in an effort to do what all Iowans want, improve public education, increase student achievement, and prepare Iowa students to compete in the global economy. Giving students and parents a choice in education is something I have
Iowa schools have a strong history of success. However, some schools are failing to provide an adequate educational experience. One measure of a failing school is when 1 out of 3 students does not graduate. This bill is narrowly tailored to provide children in failing schools a scholarship to attend a non-public school and ensure all Iowa students have the ability to open enroll to another school district. The vast majority of Iowa schools are performing well above the criteria established to define a failing school. However, thirty-four schools in nineteen school districts are determined to be failing by a standard of either the state or federal government. In some of these districts, students are not allowed to open enroll and to add another layer of frustration for Iowa parents, those failing schools have barely opened their doors for the last eleven months to even attempt to educate those students.
The common refrain from opponents of even a modest school choice proposal like this bill is money will be taken away from public schools. Over the last four years the Iowa Senate has allocated over $300 million in new funding for K-12 schools. Every promise made over the last four years has been kept because the amount of money promised has been reasonable and sustainable. This year, the Iowa Senate will again increase the amount of funding to K-12 schools and every Iowa parent can be confident in knowing the funding promised to their schools will be delivered just as it has been, even during a global pandemic. The only time money has been taken away from K-12 schools over the last 15 years is when Democrats overpromised on education funding and failed to keep that promise to the tune of nearly $400 million over the span of four years.
A number of pieces of this bill will change as the legislative process moves forward. However, I do believe it is immoral to tell parents of students in a failing school that they must continue to endure an educational system that isn’t helping their student, refuses to hold in-person classes, and prohibits them from an using an alternative public education option.