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Debunking ‘lies’ about school choice bill
The Dickey Dispatch
State Sen. Adiran Dickey
Feb. 1, 2023 12:15 am
This third week of session looked very similar to the previous. Legislation is moving through committees and as we saw on Monday night, and finally hitting the Senate floor. Monday night’s debate was quite the event, wrapping up early Tuesday morning.
I attended multiple committee and subcommittee meetings this week, and even had the chance to see Gov. Reynolds sign HF 68 into law on Tuesday morning.
The governor voiced her immense support and interest in this bill and was quoted as saying, “Public schools are the foundation of our education system and for most families they will continue to be the option of choice, but they aren’t the only choice. For some families, a different path may be better for their children. With this bill, every child in Iowa, regardless of zip code or income, will have access to the school best suited for them.”
It is very reassuring to see the Legislature working hard to get important pieces of legislation passed. With about a month until funnel week (when all legislation that hasn’t made it out of committees is thrown out) we are about to get into a very busy time of year!
Now to address the elephant in the room. As I mentioned, a very important part of this week occurred on Monday, with the passing of the school choice bill (HF 68). As many of you probably saw, I voted in favor of this bill for numerous reasons. While I could explain each reason why I support this bill, I would be writing a book rather than a newsletter. Rather, I want take the time to clear up any misconceptions being spread in regard to this bill. Being as controversial of a topic as it is, there are countless lies floating around that I cannot turn a blind eye to. I will reply to a few of the most common lies here.
The statement that “the private school will be taking all of the funding away from a public school for a student” is a lie. Public schools in Iowa my district receive just over $15,000 PER student. This is made up of state funding, property tax funding, sales tax funding, and federal funding. This Educational Savings Account is for just the state funding amount of $7,598.
If a student chooses to attend a non-public school, just the state funding will travel with them. The other funding will remain with the school and an additional $1,200 in state funding will go to the public school to not teach the student. That’s a lot of funding to not teach a student. So the statements that the private school will be taking all of the money away from the public school is a lie.
What about the “you can’t use public money for private use….” statement? The use of taxpayer money to a private entity is nothing new. Think about all of the Medicaid money (public/taxpayer money) that is used at PRIVATE health care. Would you want public funded food assistance to be used only at government food banks? The state has been spending “public money (taxpayer money) for private education” for years. The Iowa Tuition Grant received $48.9 million in 2022 and the 2023 estimate is $51.1 million. That is public money for students who attend private colleges in Iowa, and this grant program has been in place for many, many years. In 2022 private schools in Iowa received $852,000 for textbook services. In 2022 private schools received $1 million for concurrent enrollment agreements. So this statement is simply a lie.
“You can’t use public money for religious purposes” is also a lie. Has anyone ever used their Medicare and Medicaid money to attend Mercy Hospital? St. Luke's Hospital, Covenant Hospital, Methodist Hospital? These are all religious based hospitals where you are allowed to use you “taxpayer money” to obtain health services.
The statement that, “If we would only FULLY fund public schools.” On this, the school choice issue, that is a moot point. The reason why school choice has the backing by the majority is that it is directly due to the issues that have flooded our school: CRT, transgender bathrooms, pornographic books in the libraries, sexualization of our kids, drag shows in school, etc.
Issues like these are the erosion of our moral society. Here you can find a link to a letter that was penned by Jacob Hall from The Iowa Standard. The purpose of adding this link is to simply point out how rampant these things are taking place in our public schools. This is by NO way a complete account of all of these events. The point is these issues are real and are happening at a very significant level.
The presence of these social issues in our public schools is not something that can be fixed with more funding of public schools. They can only be fixed by the administrators and staff that let these issues continue. We could throw $1 billion new money at public schools and these issues still are present. The fact is, we have done just that. Our state has provided $1 billion in new money to Iowa public schools in the past 10 years and over half a billion in the past 5 years. In that time, we have only seen these social ideological issues and the sexualization of our children in public schools expand!
Last year the State of Iowa funded Iowa public schools at the tune of $3.6 billion. When higher education spending is added it totals 56.4% of the entire budget for the State of Iowa. Public education always has and always will remain a major priority of the State of Iowa! The “just fully fund public schools and these issues will go away” is a lie.
Another lie I continue to hear is “how we are cutting school budgets." The fact is the last time school funding was actually cut by the state was in 2010 when the Democratic party had a trifecta of power (Democrat Governor, Democrat House, Democrat Senate).
The talking point that the private schools will not be held accountable is a lie. The school must be an accredited school for the scholarship to be awarded. An accredited school means there is testing, reporting, guidelines, etc.… that they must follow. They must follow the accountability standards as specified in chapter 256.11 in the Iowa Code and I believe that code is 37 pages long! Therefore the talking point that the private schools will not be held accountable is another lie.
The statement that private schools do not have to accept special education students is correct. However, most private schools in Iowa currently have a similar percentage of special needs students or students with an IEP as public schools. All students in Iowa (public and private) receive special education assistance/support from the AEAs in their area. However if you still feel there is a “unfairness” between public and private schools in regard to accepting special education students or students with an IEP, public schools receive $10,000 more in base money for the special education student from property tax, etc. than the private school. In addition, the public school receives an additional $12,916- $28,416 in funding for every one of these special needs students to assist in teaching. This is something that private schools will not receive. If the student needs a paraeducator to assist in the education of the student, the public school can bill Medicaid for the cost of the paraeducator.
Gov. Reynolds ran as this being her #1 issue and she won by a landslide. The statistics show Iowans overwhelmingly support school choice and ESAs (Educational Savings Accounts). Poll after poll show huge support for ESAs. In the Ed Choice poll found at www.iowaace.org, it shows that in Iowa:
• 67% of the general population favor ESAs
• 64% of rural Iowans favor ESAs
• 72% households under $40,000 favor ESAs
• 69% of households making $40,000 to $79,999 favor ESAs
• 62% of households making over $80,000 favor ESAs
• 64% of Democrats favor ESAs
• 71% of Republicans favor ESAs
• 63% of Independents favor ESAs
• 84% of African Americans favor ESAs
• 77% of Hispanics favor ESAs
• 65% of Caucasians favor ESAs
The statement “you are only helping the wealthy families with this bill” might be the dumbest statement yet. Why? Because wealthy families already have the means to send their children to private schools if they desire. Look at the polling above. The highest polling for ESAs among income earners comes from the lowest income bracket. This bill will provide families of all economic levels the choice in their child's education that in the past, only upper income families could afford.
Here are the FACTS. I don’t love everything that is in this bill. I don’t. I am NOT a public school hater or a private school lover. Fact is my children have attended the Pekin Community School District, just as I did, and just as my parents did. I LOVE the Pekin Community School District. I would not support legislation that would close any school in my district. If the school is listening to its customers, following the law, and teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic, and not transgender transformation, not Critical Race Theory, remove the pornographic books from the school libraries, stop having things like drag shows and the sexualization of our children in the schools, your school is not going to close!
I appreciate all that have previously and continue to reach out to voice their opinions on legislation. I enjoy hearing from my constituents, both positive and negative opinions. Please reach out to Adrian.firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or concerns you may have. As always, thank you for your continued support.
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