As lawmakers consider some controversial legislation which would affect home school assistance programs, children and families from around Iowa plan to rally at the statehouse today. A bill offered by the Iowa Department of Education would cut the money the state gives school districts to run the programs which provide support for home schoolers.
Currently, schools get funding for each home-schooled child that’s worth six tenths of the full funding for a regularly enrolled child. The department’s Jeff Berger says that would be cut in half to three tenths.
"We’ve already heard from home school assistance programs who are very concerned about the bill," Berger said. The change would save the state 6 to 8 million dollars. Berger claims the current formula is more than what’s needed to run the programs and the surplus is going into schools’ general funds.
"And so they’re being used for every purpose," Berger said. "We believe the intent of this funding was to provide for the program. So if the dollars are being used for other purposes – that is a questionable use of these funds." Berger says his agency is hearing from parents and others who are very concerned about the bill.
"It’s clear that anytime you’re talking about a policy change that takes money away from what they currently have, you’re going to hear feedback like that," Berger said. "We’re willing to push this conversation forward." A spokesperson for the Marion school district, which has one of the larger home school enrollments in the state, says schools vary in how they handle home school assistance. He says lawmakers decided 16 years ago that six tenths was appropriate.