House Study Bill 1 or the Students First Act is being discussed in the Iowa Legislature. Key terms in this bill are school vouchers or Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs) and school choice. Below, you can find information on these terms and how school vouchers/ESAs will negatively impact public schools.
School Vouchers and ESAs
School vouchers are state funds that are routed to non-public schools. They are government-funded scholarships to attend a participating private school, rather than a public school. ESAs allow parents to withdraw their student from public school and receive a deposit of public funds into government-authorized savings accounts, with somewhat restricted, but multiple uses.
School Choice is the idea that parents should be able to send their children to any school or educational institution or location or use an “array” of educational options. A study by the Heritage Foundation ranked Iowa ninth in the country for “school choice,” before the Iowa Charter School legislation and before the change to Open Enrollment deadlines in 2022. Iowa already has significant school choice in its public schools and the Western Dubuque Community School District opposes the creation or expansion of programs/plans that redirect or designate additional taxpayer funds away from public schools.
Investments in education savings accounts, voucher programs, school tuition organizations or homeschool:
- Remove resources from public schools
- Lack accountability for expenditures, requirements to educate all children or provide special education services
- Are hidden from the public oversight that should come with tax dollars
KEY TALKING POINTS
- Iowa already has a wide range of school choice options for parents and students, including in-district transfer, district-to-district public school open enrollment, strong non-public schools, home school options, publicly funded School Tuition Organization tax credits. The new Open Enrollment rules allow for the almost immediate ability for parents to choose to send their child to another Iowa public school, at little or no cost to the parent.
- Families should have the choice to enroll their child in a private or religious school, but not with public taxpayer funds.
- The public’s investment should be used to support public community schools which are open to all students regardless of race, religion, gender, socio-economic status and disability. These same expectations do not currently exist for private educational institutions in our state.
- This bill creates incentives for outside entities and private organizations to establish a private school in our district, without consent of our locally elected School Board. Private schools are then given freedom from regulations that our school district must follow.
- Private schools have little to no public oversight for spending public funds. Private schools have no requirement to accept all students. Private schools are not held to the same accountability standards regarding course offerings, reporting for student assessments, budget transparency, open meetings and more.
- In no other tax-funded entity are citizens/taxpayers allowed to “opt out” and use their tax funds elsewhere. (Law enforcement, fire department, hospitals, public health, municipal golf courses, etc.)
Local Legislative Contacts
The following legislators represent areas served by the Western Dubuque Community School District. For a complete directory of legislators, view the FIND YOUR LEGISLATOR
tool on the Iowa Legislature website.