Ten years ago state policymakers agreed to give Iowans a tax credit for donations to scholarship funds used to pay private school tuition for needy students. Since then, over $97 million in scholarship money has been raised.
Vincenta Cardenas and her husband work in the pork processing plant in Denison. The couple is getting scholarship help to send three of their children to St. Rose of Lima Catholic School in Denison. She spoke through an interpreter to the crowd gathered at the capitol.
“The kids are the future of society and if they have God in their heart as young children, when they’re older and we’re not here anymore, automatically society will change,” she said, through her interpreter, earning a long burst of applause from the crowd.
John Heth, pastor of the New Life Assembly of God Church in Clarinda, is the father of two children who are getting scholarships to attend the Clarinda Lutheran School.
“We know that Proverbs tells us that: ‘Train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it,'” he said. “And that’s essential into developing the minds of our young people and it’s part of the education experience, I believe.”
These scholarship funds are called “Student Tuition Organizations” or STOs. Joel Groenenboom of Oskaloosa, the father of 11 children, is getting tuition assistance from the “Legacy of Grace Student Tuition Organization” so his kids may attend the Oskaloosa Christian School.
“The STO has been a very large part of our ability to send our kids to Christian school and we are very, very grateful for that opportunity,” he said.
Groenenboom and other advocates for these Student Tuition Organizations have a bigger dream, though. They’d like legislators to set up “Education Savings Accounts” for each Iowa K-12 student who is not attending a public school. Under their plan, parents would be able to use that money to pay for private school tuition, fees and tutoring.