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One of the biggest points of contention in the debate over Education Savings Accounts is opponents are more concerned about systems while supporters of ESAs have students in their best interest.

Perhaps there is no better example of this distinction than the following situation.

Dan Barkel is the superintendent of Marcus Meriden Cleghorn Remsen Union Schools. He’s been with MMCRU since 2018. And he has been a vocal critic of Education Savings Accounts as superintendent of the public school district.

Last year the media quoted Barkel in articles highlighting his opposition to Education Savings Accounts.

“I said to the governor and my state representative, I said you know if you have problems with public education, we are a creation of you and you have the power to change the laws that we have to follow,” Barkel reportedly said. “I feel like they’re just basically pulling out the rug from underneath us.”

Barkel said he is “adamantly opposed” to ESAs as a government school superintendent because it is “totally unfair competition.”

Barkel also told the media about a meeting Gov. Kim Reynolds and about six other rural superintendents had. Barkel said Reynolds tried to get local districts to advocate for Education Savings Accounts.

Barkel has continued his criticism of the ESA bill this year, complaining that it puts private schools on equal footing in terms of funding from the state but having “virtually no regulations.”

“We already have to scrap for every student we get and if we start losing students and eventually when you lose students in rural schools. Eventually, you lose jobs,” said Barkel.

On the MMCRU Facebook page, Barkel said his district is “probably more threatened by this legislation than most.”

“It would be wise for us to once again push back on the proposed legislation by contacting your state representative,” Barkel said.

Barkel then gave the contact information for Representatives Ken Carlson and Tom Jeneary. He included a list of “talking points” opposing the ESA proposal.

Interestingly enough, in that same Siouxland Proud article, Dr. Lindsay Laurich is quoted. Laurich is the superintendent for Siouxland Community Christian School. She is quoted as saying that “at the root” of the policy is the most important question of who benefits from the legislation.

“I believe that it’s Iowa’s students and families that are benefiting,” she said. “And it gives them the right to really choose the education that’s right for their child.”

Guess who agreed with Laurich just a few years ago — almost word for word.

Dan Barkel.

The Iowa Standard obtained emails of support for Education Savings Accounts from Barkel when he was principal at Western Christian High School.

“Thank you so much for all your work with ESAs,” Barkel wrote to legislators at the time. “I really appreciate your work to get a bill out of subcommittee and into the agenda for the Education Committee of the Iowa House. Having school choice options directly helps kids and families. I am very excited to see how it can help all families in Iowa. I appreciate you taking the political pressure because of this. Please know that you have my support and gratitude.”

Barkel also advocated for an increase to the School Tuition Organization tax credit scholarship program. He also asked where legislators stand on ensuring “every child has the opportunity to attend the school that best serves his/her needs regardless of address or family income.”

This perfectly sums up the debate on school choice and Education Savings Accounts. Government school advocates aren’t taking into account what is best for all families. They aren’t taking a position to make sure “every child has the opportunity to attend the school that best serves their needs regardless of address or family income.”

It’s crazy to see how when Barkel was principal of the private school, he was grateful to see school choice options that “directly help” kids and families. And he was appreciative of legislators taking “political pressure” for the cause.

Ironically, it is now Barkel applying that same “political pressure” on legislators against a policy that he previously said would “directly help kids and families.”

Whether we are parents, students, taxpayers or school administrators — our top concern should be what is best for all students and all families, not systems.


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