An overflow crowd watched the hearing on a TV screen. (RI photo)

Parents, educators, school board members and a couple of students testified at tonight’s public hearing on the governor’s plan to give parents state money to cover private school expenses.

Bill backer Jennifer Sulgrove told lawmakers she objected to the curriculum at Pleasant Valley high school in Bettendorf and is now teaching her daughter at home. “We would have loved to have put her in a private school this year, but the cost is prohibitive,” Sulgrove said. “…As a parent, I want my child to have an education that has an academic rigor and challenges her thinking without crushing her moral compass in the process.”

Bernie Scolaro, a retired educator who’s now a member of the Sioux City School Board, said the governor’s bill and it’s billion dollar price tag over the next four years will “chip away” at public schools. “Taking more money away from schools who are already struggling financially will force them eventually to shut down,” she said. “How is that providing more choice for your communities?”

Patty Alexander of Indianola, a retired teacher, called public schools “a monopoly” that needs to be broken up. “Public education has become socially destructive, ruled by selfish elitists that do not care about our family values or our society in general,” Alexander said.

Several parents and teachers told lawmakers private schools won’t accept all students as public schools are required to do. Kerry Lust, the mother of three children who attend Ankeny public schools, has a 15 year old son who has been diagnosed with autism and other disabilities. “The reality is that a private school will not accept my son because of his disabilities,” Lust said. “…When you hear the term ‘school choice,’ remember that private schools have the choice who to accept.”

More than 50 people testified at tonight’s hearing and large crowds gathered around video screens in the Capitol that were broadcasting the hearing. More than 1200 people submitted written statements opposing the legislation, with about 430 writing they supported it.

Radio Iowa