Public Schools

GUEST COLUMN: A bad week for public schools | Guest Columnists

Written by Mamie M. Arndt


Eric Giddens

Eric Giddens


Last week, two bills impacting Iowa schools passed the Iowa Senate before most Iowans had time to learn about them and make their voices heard. Both pieces of legislation were written and filed with no input from Iowa parents, students, educators and other taxpayers.

SF 159 would take funding intended for public schools and use it for a new private school voucher program. This has the potential to cripple many Iowa school districts, especially those in our small towns and rural areas. After years of inadequate public-school funding that hasn’t kept up with inflation — not to mention the additional challenges and expenses of the pandemic — that’s an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars.

Our public schools — which educate more than 94% of Iowa students — must abide by clear guidelines, which provides transparency and oversight for your tax dollars. Under SF 159, nonpublic schools would get tax dollars with no obligation to modify their admissions process, allowing them to pick and choose which students they enroll. In addition, the bill would give state dollars to charter schools but exempt them from most state statutes, rules and local regulations applicable to public schools.

Iowa already offers families a wide range of school choice options:

  • Each year, about 30,000 students open enroll in another public school.
  • Many students take part in the Iowa public virtual academy.
  • State funding supports home schooling and independent private instruction.
  • Iowa’s 34,000 private school students get more than $65 million in public tax dollars every year.
  • SF 159 has been sent to the Iowa House for its approval. If you’d like to share your views on this bill with your state representative, you can find their contact information at www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find.
  • SF 160 requires all schools to have a 100% in-person option. Everyone wants to see students back in the classroom, but we shouldn’t mandate in-person classes until it is safe and healthy for local educators, families and communities.

About the author

Mamie M. Arndt