Ed Tibbetts: Few Iowa families will have more choices with GOP ‘school choice’ plan
Ed Tibbetts substacks at Along the Mississippi. In this op-ed for the Iowa Capital Dispatch, he looks at the true cost of Kim Reynolds’ voucher plan.
But that’s not what her plan says. Just look at the details: Only certain families with kids in public schools will get that choice.
What this plan really does is pay people who already are sending their kids to private schools.
Like many voucher programs, this one really sticks it to rural taxpayers.
Forty-one counties in Iowa have no private schools, according to the group Common Good Iowa. Another 23 counties only have one private school.
What choice do those kids and their parents have?
What Reynolds’ plan really does is take their tax money and send it to families who live somewhere else.
But while this program may have an impact on taxpayers, its impact on students will be meager.
Rural or urban, though, even the governor’s own proposal acknowledges relatively few people will get this money. About 33,000 Iowa kids go to private schools now, and the governor says when her plan is phased in, that number will nudge up to about 38,000.
That’s not much of a change: Just 5,000 kids.
Meanwhile, approximately 500,000 Iowa kids will remain in underfunded public schools.
Do the math: Her plan only pays for 1% of Iowa kids to go from public to private school, but the costs balloon to roughly $340 million a year when phased in – or 9% of the basic state aid going to public schools now.
And like the several voucher plans being rocketed through red state legislatures right now, the Iowa plan is being fast-tracked–quick, before the voters notice!
The plan also is being moved quickly. That’s because the governor knows the longer this lingers, the better people will be able to grasp the consequences. The longer a light is shined on it, the more people realize this plan isn’t supposed to enable them to make a choice, but to pay for people who already have made it.
In the meantime, it sucks money away from the vast majority of public-school students who will remain in classrooms where districts already struggle with rising costs while the state turns a blind eye; in schools where our state spends less per pupil than most other states in the country; in schools where teachers whose salaries lag will eventually go to places where their skills are better rewarded and they aren’t scorned in service of the culture wars.