Parents who enroll their child in a private school would get up to $5000 in state tax dollars to pay for that child’s tuition and other expenses under legislation introduced in the Iowa House. Representative Walt Rogers, a Republican from Cedar Falls, is the bill’s sponsor.
“Allows the parent to pick the best place for their kid,” Rogers said during an appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program this weekend. “We love public schools. Public schools are great in the state of Iowa, but they’re not the best fit for everybody.”
Last year, Rogers had envisioned sending state money for each of the 33,000 students who already attend a private school in Iowa, but there was sticker shock over the 170-million dollar price tag. His new plan would make the money available only for children attending a private school for the first time.
“We are educating the public,” Rogers said. “It’s my philosophy that parents should have the right to decide where those public dollars, that they’ve all put into, should go.”
Critics call this a “voucher” plan that would undermine public schools.
“Vouchers would represent gutting public education and undermining what we all believe in, which is every kid — not matter where they live — should have access to quality education.” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of the Progress Iowa coalition that includes the Iowa State Education Association — the union for teachers.
A January survey conducted by Public Policy Polling found 62 percent of registered voters in Iowa oppose public tax dollars being spend on private schools.
“There is bipartisan opposition to this proposal,” Sinovic said during a weekend interview, “and so legislators hopefully will take note of that and pay attention to what their constituents want or, in this case, don’t want.”
Sinovic pointed to the survey result that found while 40 percent of Republicans support the idea, 48 percent of the Republicans surveyed opposed sending tax dollars to non-public schools.
There were nearly 33,000 kids enrolled in non-public schools in Iowa last year. Enrollment in public schools last year topped 485,000.